Who would have thought Minnesota, after all these years, would be a destination place for pro basketball players to want to continue their careers? Even more unthinkable that it would be the Minnesota Lynx.
Sylvia Fowles told the local media during her July 28 introductory press conference that she was willing to sit out the season if her one-team-trade request wasn’t met. “I didn’t want to sit out. It was something I wanted that was different” from Chicago, the city and team she has played for since being drafted second overall by the Sky in 2008. The 6-6 center didn’t want to re-sign with the club, but couldn’t become a free agent — therefore the only way Fowles could play this season either was with her now former team or if Chicago traded her rights.
“I wanted to be somewhere else,” admitted the eight-year veteran.
That “somewhere else” is Minnesota, the only team Fowles told Sky officials that she would accept a trade.
The Twin Cities a hot destination place for pro hoopers and no longer a place where NBAers land just to change planes? This definitely hasn’t been the case for quite some time. “I love it that we’re the team on the map,” said FSN Analyst Lea B. Olsen to the MSR at the Lynx-Timberwolves practice facility.
“People want to be here, and that is something I think you have to enjoy because all of a sudden it can be gone quickly, so enjoy it that it is the Lynx’s turn.”
Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Renee Montgomery all told the MSR that Minnesota is indeed the place to be when asked after Minnesota’s six-point win over Los Angeles July 29. “It’s a combination of just awesome people that are involved in this organization,” said Moore. “We got the commitment from a lot of our sponsors, and our owner putting the money where the mouth is and provided awesome facilities for us. The leaders we have on this team…[are] competitors and selfless. And the fans — they have been ridiculous to come out as passionate as they have, and enjoy us as much as they do. It’s not just one thing but a lot of different things.
“It’s an environment where you really feel like everybody wants you to do well.”
“It shows the culture and the chemistry that we have built here,” added Whalen. “It just shows it’s a welcoming place — a winning culture. Now it’s become a place where [players] want to come. We want great players to feel welcome, like they can come in and really contribute. Have fun and play their game.”
“Now, we’re the Lynx 2.0,” noted Montgomery, who was acquired a week ago in a trade with Seattle. She was originally drafted by the team in 2009, but traded to Connecticut during the offseason in 2010. “Everything has been upgraded. It’s awesome.”
Minnesota acquired Fowles in a three-team deal with Chicago, getting Erika de Souza, while Atlanta got from the Lynx Damiris Dantas, Reshanda Gray, and the 2016 first round pick. At the surface it’s a win-win-win for all parties: the Lynx gets a player that might be a final piece to get them in the championship circle later this summer. Atlanta gets two young players with potential, along with a second first round pick next year. And Chicago gets a seasoned center in de Souza that replaces the three-time All-Star and four-time all-defense.
After her debut game Wednesday against Los Angeles in a Lynx uniform, Fowles told the MSR, “I am trying to give [the team] everything I can while I am here.” The four-time All-WNBA Defensive and two-time best defensive player of the year however gave herself a “reasonable but not solid” self-assessment of her first game of the season after a 26 minutes, 11-point, five rebounds, three steals, no blocked shots performance in the home win.
“The one thing I love about Sylvia Fowles [and] why she reminds me of a female KG (Kevin Garnett),” continued Olsen, “is she plays with intensity on the defensive end. She is so serious when she is on the court and has a presence. Her physical built is so intriguing. I think it’s really cool that she and KG [are] playing together [in the same arena].
“I think it is the first time that the Minnesota Lynx has had a true center, a 6-foot-6 center, a shot blocker who’s athletic and can get up and down the court,” said Olsen.
“She’s not a typical center,” said Moore on Fowles when asked Wednesday by a visiting reporter. “She’s an energy player. I’m excited to have her here. She causes problems [for opponents]. She is going to make our job that much easier.”
The forward later told the MSR, “I still think she wants to grow and learn. It will be really fun to watch. Everybody talks about her statue, her rebounding and she is an unbelievable player” said Whalen. “But she is real good person and a real good personality that really fits our team and our style… a fun person to be around. She’s a cool person and I am glad to have her in the locker room.”
“I am deeply thrilled to see her,” added longtime Lynx fan Tonyus Chavers, who told the MSR during Wednesday‘s game that Minnesota has in Fowles “a true center with skills.”
Finally, Moore said that the current environment that now exists at Minnesota, the type that convinced Fowles to be a part of, could last a while. “I hope the legacy that Taj [McWilliams-Franklin], Whalen, Seimone [Augustus] and [Rebekkah] Brunson are leaving will continue through us, and the feeling lasts a long time,” she concluded.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org