Seimone Augustus remembers it clearly. Maya Moore, too.
Three years ago this summer Augustus and fellow Lynx players Moore and Lindsay Whalen were all on the U.S. women’s basketball team at the London Olympics.
It was halftime of the semifinal game against Australia. And, for the first time in 12 years, the U.S. found itself trailing at the half to an Aussie team led by 6-8 Liz Cambage.
Enter Asjha Jones.
OK, so many it wasn’t that dramatic. But it was close. Jones, a veteran, had been perhaps the last player to make the team; she didn’t play much in those Olympics. Almost all of her minutes came in the second half of that semifinal game when coach Geno Auriemma — her former coach at the University of Connecticut — put her on the court with this instruction: Stop Cambage.
“Out of the whole tournament, she basically played in that game,” Augustus said Sunday, after the Lynx finished its first training camp practice at the newly constructed practice facility. “And she had an impact.”
Cambage, who had scored 19 points in the first half, didn’t score again. Australia, up 47-43 at halftime, wound up playing in the bronze medal game.
This is why Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and her teammates on that Olympic team are confident that Jones will be able to fill the void left by Janel McCarville’s decision to sit out this season. Not that McCarville’s decision wasn’t hard to take. Augustus, who counted McCarville as one of her closest friends on the team, admitted it hurt. Moore said she was shocked by the decision. Clearly the timing of the move — the Lynx found out only a few weeks ago — was difficult to take.
“It’s her decision,” Moore said. “It’s not ideal by any means. But it is what it is. And we’re here to win.”
And the belief is Jones, 34, has what it takes to help them do so.
“When I think of somebody who can simply be described as a pro, it’s Asjha,” Moore said.
Jones is the front-runner to become the third veteran center the Lynx have used in the past five seasons. The Lynx won their first title with Taj McWilliams-Franklin’s wily post play. They won their second title with McCarville and her creative game in the post.
And now it’s Jones, who, at 6-3, is another highly experienced but slightly undersized veteran.
“I think it’s fortunate to have them want me,” said Jones, acquired in a trade with the Connecticut Sun last week. “When I decided I was able to play, I was curious who would take a chance on me. I’m grateful and blessed that it was such a good team.”
Jones has missed the past two WNBA seasons because of injury. The most severe was a rupture of her left Achilles’ tendon suffered while playing in Europe during the 2013-14 season. The tendon, which had been giving Jones problems for almost seven years, finally tore, requiring surgery in December of 2013.
She returned to play in Europe last fall, but didn’t feel 100 percent till halfway through the season.
Her return to a WNBA court was delayed, too. A pre-camp physical revealed what Reeve called a “blood count issue,” which kept her out of Sunday’s practice. It is not considered serious, and Jones is expected to return soon.
When she does, she will give the team tenacious post defense. On offense, Jones might be the most dangerous scoring center the Lynx have had under Reeve, who compares Jones’ step-back move to the one perfected by former NBA great Jack Sikma.
Her teammates already know Jones is a big-game player, yet another former U.S. Olympian added to the mix.
“She’s a complete player,” Augustus said. “She can shoot the jumper. She’s very aggressive in the post. Coach always does a good job of bringing in someone who is a good fit.”
•Monica Wright was held out of practice after straining a calf during warmups.
• Whalen, whose European season went late, is excused from practice until Wednesday.