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Seimone Augustus had to know the question was coming. She was doing the news conference dealing with her decision to retire as a player and join the Los Angeles Sparks coaching staff. She had to figure someone would ask what it would be like to go back to Target Center for the first time as part of another team.
"I know," she started, then stopped. "I haven't thought about it in depth. But I know that … I mean, Minnesota knows they have a piece of my heart. Always will. The fans … aw, man. Teared up. I gave them everything in 14 years that I could give. I felt like, in return, the fans were always amazing."
That return is Saturday. Augustus, whose move from the Lynx to the Sparks before the 2020 season raised some eyebrows — and perhaps, some hackles — has joined the Sparks' coaching staff and will be on the bench Saturday when the Lynx host Los Angeles. She played against the Lynx last year, but in the WNBA bubble in Florida. This will be her first game back in Minneapolis.
So it will be an emotional return. Augustus, so long synonymous with the Lynx, a core member of the teams that won four WNBA titles, knows more tears are probable.
"Obviously I can't wait to get back to the Target Center, to allow them, and to allow myself, to just have that one big cryfest," Augustus said. "So bring your tissues. We're all going to get it in, and let it out and release and then we'll be able to move forward and compete."
The fact Augustus chose to go to the Sparks only makes the two team's traditional rivalry more interesting. The two teams played each other in the finals in 2016 and 2017, both series going the full five games. The Sparks won in 2016 at Target Center, the Lynx won in 2017 at Williams Arena.
For Augustus, the strongest memories start in 2011. She was over injury issues that had slowed her a year before. Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson were there. Maya Moore was a rookie, and the team had signed Taj McWilliams-Franklin. Augustus said she can remember looking around the room wondering how all this talent would jell. And then, at the first practice, she saw it after the group beat up on the practice team of men. "It was like, 'Oh yeah, it's on,' " Augustus said. "We clicked immediately."
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve remembered the sacrifices the high-scoring Augustus made to accommodate her new teammates, how she became the team's best perimeter defender as the team won its first title in 2011. She talked about how Augustus was able to bring smiles and laughter to any situation. About how her singular ability to create her own shot with that crossover served the team so well.
"When you're best player is willing to do the harder things, the dirty things, the whole team is better for it," Reeve said.
But about that move to L.A. Saying it perhaps only half-jokingly, Reeve referred to the idea of a former Lynx player wearing a Sparks jersey as "blasphemous."
"We've gone through it for a year; Seimone actually played against us [in the WNBA bubble last season]," Reeve said. "And it's a disgusting look. Just flat-out blasphemy."
Center Sylvia Fowles played with Augustus at Louisiana State. Her decision to hold out to force a trade to the Lynx from Chicago during the 2015 season was in large part because of her desire to play with Augustus again.
"It was tough at first," Fowles said of Augustus' decision to sign with L.A. "So it was kinda hurtful on the decision she made. But at the end of the day she chose to do what she did, and I support her 100 percent.
"I'm excited to have her coming back here. I think our fans will love that. This is like Seimone's home. I'm happy to see her back in Target Center."
Saturday three members of the 2017 champions will be on benches. Augustus with the Sparks, Rebekkah Brunson and Plenette Pierson as Lynx assistants.
"That team will always be, in my opinion, the greatest team in league history because of what we were able to do," Augustus said. "I know my decision to leave, how it impacted some people. But the people that now and respect what I've done, it's been amazing to share those moments and memories with them."