After sitting out the first half of the 2015 season, center Sylvia Fowles received the trade from Chicago to the Minnesota Lynx she'd been seeking. Amidst a new city, new team, and new plays to learn, she also found a familiar face.
"When I came in she was the first person to greet me," said Fowles of former LSU teammate Seimone Augustus. "She took me shopping to get some things for my apartment. It was great to see each other face to face."
While both were excited about the reunion, the shopping trips were short lived as Fowles, 29, got to work learning an unfamiliar system and the tendencies of her new Lynx teammates.
After seven seasons with the Chicago Sky, Fowles admits the most challenging part of assimilating to Minnesota was learning new plays. However, she had a friend and support system in Augustus, who was in her 10th season with the Lynx.
"My ultimate goal was for her to be happy," said Augustus of Fowles' move this July. "Since she was able to be here, I was 10 times happier for myself since we could be together again."
Augustus, 31, has a resume' to make even the top WNBA players jealous. A five-time All-Star, she became one of the most recognizable female athletes in the country when she earned MVP honors leading Minnesota to a WNBA title in 2011. The former Olympian would add a second ring in 2013.
According to Augustus, the consistent success over the years is a result of approaching each season the same. "The mindset has always been to play every game like it's a playoff game," proclaims Augustus. This year, however, Fowles, and her 15 points per game, brought a new facet to a historically dominant organization.
"She is a post player we haven't had since I've been here," said Augustus of the two-time defensive player of the year.
In the past, Minnesota has been successful with a high-post center. The Lynx needed to make some adjustments to incorporate Fowles, a low-post center, into their offense.
The result has been Fowles playing as happy as her former college teammate hoped she would be. She was welcomed with open arms by her Lynx teammates and Minnesota fans as her defense and post play helped push Minnesota through the second half of the season.
The Lynx still managed to secure the top seed in the West after a difficult 6-6 record in August, and injuries to key veterans, including Augustus' sprained left foot. Fowles was clearly settled in when she posted five consecutive double-doubles. In her 18 games, she averaged 15.3 points per game and 8.3 rebounds.
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While there was an understandable learning curve, the one thing Fowles already had in common with her new teammates was a frustrating memory of last year's WNBA playoffs. The Chicago Sky were swept by Phoenix in the finals leaving the All-Star without a championship ring to her name.
Minnesota missed the Finals altogether in 2014 after three straight appearances and two titles. It's fair to say every Lynx player used this disappointment as motivation all season, propelling them to their fourth finals in five years.
"You're disappointed anytime you fall short of your goal," said Augustus. "All of us are experienced, smart, and go back to look at the footage to see what we can get better at. Each individual player has gotten better."
As each player continues to learn and improve, Augustus has found her role on the team evolve over the last 10 seasons from rookie, to MVP, to a player-coach for her younger teammates.
"I went from the youngin' learning the ropes to the vet that everyone comes to talk to about things on and off the court," says Augustus. "It brings me joy to help build this team for the future."
One role she fails to mention is team prankster.
"A lot of people think she's quiet because she doesn't say much," explains Fowles of her longtime friend. "But really she is fun and outgoing. She's a prankster."
According to Fowles, Augustus has never been able to fool her with a prank. But soon after she joined the team in July, she knew Augustus was still up to her old tricks when she jokingly took teammate Renee Montgomery's per diem on a road trip. The per diem was returned, of course, but it's safe to assume each teammate is a bit more cautious in their travels.
When she isn't pulling pranks, Augustus is focused on preparing for Minnesota's matchup against the Indiana Fever in the 2015 WNBA Finals.
"We know Indiana has always been a great defensive team," said Augustus. "But offensively they have shown up right on time."
Both Fowles and Augustus are hoping they can capitalize on home-court advantage through the five-game series. Minnesota fans are among the most passionate in the WNBA, even meeting their Western Conference champions at the airport after they defeated the Phoenix Mercury in two games.
"It's always nice to play in front of fans," stated Fowles. "With that said, we have to get ready for whatever is thrown at us."
In their first meeting at the Target Center, Indiana threw a defensive clinic at the Lynx holding them to just 69 points. However, Fowles, Augustus, and their experienced Minnesota team have been in the Finals before and know how hard they will need to fight as a team.
"Not one person is going to get it done," said Fowles of her new team. "We will need everybody at the end of the day."