Lynx persevere despite losing Augustus

6/30/2009 - WNBA Atlanta Dream Minnesota Lynx + more
The Lynx's Candice Wiggins is coming off her first career WNBA player of the week honor. David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

It was supposed to be a chance to see two all-time greats from the SEC -- both former No. 1 draft picks in the WNBA -- meet in the heart of SEC territory. Atlanta's Chamique Holdsclaw, the all-time leading scorer for Tennessee (3,025 points) vs. Minnesota's Seimone Augustus, second on LSU's career scoring chart (2,702).

But that won't happen. Just list it as another of the millions of things torn ACLs have screwed up.

Minnesota travels to Atlanta (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET) as the Lynx keep trying to find their way without Augustus, who suffered a season-ending knee injury June 17.

Holdsclaw and Augustus are iconic figures from their respective colleges and in the women's game, but they have not faced off much in the WNBA. Augustus was the top draft pick in 2006, which was Holdsclaw's last full year in the league before her brief retirement.

Holdsclaw played just five games in 2007 -- the fifth was against Augustus' Lynx -- before saying she was done. But after sitting out all of the 2008 season, Holdsclaw -- who was the top WNBA selection in 1999 -- returned this summer.

And now it's Augustus who is out. She's facing surgery and months of rehab, hoping she'll be strong and ready for the 2010 WNBA season and able to prepare for the World Championship in the fall of 2010.

There's no such thing as an ACL injury you don't cringe over, but Augustus' blown knee seemed especially unfair. The Lynx, who had a coaching change just days before the season began, had gotten off to a strong start under Jennifer Gillom. It appeared that maybe all the bad mojo this franchise has endured was finally lifting.

But no. About the time we were all saying "Check out the Lynx," Augustus -- who was averaging 21.0 ppg -- hit the floor. It's not as if Minnesota (or any other team, for that matter) has an Augustus substitute on its bench. Her absence hurts the whole league.

However … Minnesota hasn't collapsed. So that's now the storyline for this game: Can Gillom keep this team on track even without one of the world's best players?

Well, the Lynx do come in having won two in a row, and Candice Wiggins was named Western Conference player of the week after scoring 25 and 22 points in those victories.

Wiggins is, obviously, the rock that Minnesota must be built upon now. She's part of the "pedigree" factor at work here, too. Two UConn players, Charde Houston and Renee Montgomery, and Tennessee's Nicky Anosike are all going to need to have a big impact on this team, too.

On one hand, a player leaves college behind when she joins the WNBA … but in another way, she always carries it with her. What Wiggins, Houston, Montgomery and Anosike bring is an expectation of success with no room for excuses.

It still seems like too much to ask now for Minnesota to survive as one of the top four teams in the rugged West. But maybe the Lynx still can show that their fortunes, even without Augustus, really have changed.

Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com. Read her blog at http://voepel.wordpress.com.