Both sides had wanted this for months.
Sylvia Fowles, one of the best centers in the world, wanted to come play for the Lynx. She told the Chicago Sky that a long time ago. The Lynx, meanwhile, began trying to trade for Fowles back in the spring, long before Janel McCarville told the team she wouldn’t be playing this season.
But they had to wait.
The Lynx couldn’t get a deal done. To listen to Lynx executive vice president Roger Griffith, there were times when he felt a deal would never get done.
Turns out what had to happen was a third team had to get involved. One that had something Chicago wanted. One that was in a place, this season, where the future was more important than the present.
The Dream, a perennial playoff contender, is having a down year. At 7-10, last in the Eastern Conference, it was time for the Dream to start looking ahead. The Dream had Erika de Souza on their roster – a big, physical center the Sky wanted. The Lynx had a couple youngsters in Reshanda Gray and, especially, Damiris Dantas, that interested the Dream.
So a deal finally got done.
“The main thing here is that Atlanta’s situation changed,” Griffith said. “Suddenly the player became available and that came together.’’
This is a big, big move for the Lynx. Yes, it came at significant cost. The Lynx had to send both Gray and Dantas and next year’s first-round draft pick to Atlanta. The Dream then sent Erika de Souza to Chicago, which then sent Fowles and a 2016 second-round draft pick to Minnesota. Minnesota gets the best center in franchise history. One that has won two Olympic gold medals, been a WNBA All Star three times. Twice she’s been the league’s defensive player of the league and twice she’s been named to the all-first team in the league.
She can score in the post. She is very good on the pick and roll. Even more impressive – and important – is the rim protection she brings to the Lynx.
“Most days are great to be a Lynx, but this one ranks up there as pretty special,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “For us to be able to secure ourselves a 6-6 center that has found a lot of success in this league, it just opens up a number of opportunities for us. (We can) talk about the championship window, we can talk about what it does x’s and o’s wise for us. ….It’s a big, big day.’’
One that may extend the team’s window when it comes to vying for titles. Fowles, who played two years at Louisiana State with Lynx star Seimone Augustus, is 29, with years of productive play left. The addition of Fowles – along with the draft-day acquisition of Anna Cruz and last weeks’ trade for Renee Montgomery – gives the Lynx a very, very deep lineup when fully healthy; the team will be able to trot out a second unit that includes Cruz, Montgomery, Devereaux Peters and Asjha Jones. That kind of depth can allow Reeve to take minutes off of Lindsay Whalen and Augustus.
“We have some players on the perimeter that will be happy to see her back there,” Reeve said. “When they get beat, Sylvia should be able to be there to provide some assistance, whether it’s a blocked shot or just an opposing presence. We’ve played against Sylvia down there. And she’s hard to play again.’’
And, presumably, easy to play with.
Fowles has been on multiple national teams with several Lynx players, including Whalen, Augustus and Maya Moore. She has maintained a close relationship with Augustus, her old college teammate. Both made multiple trips to the NCAA Final Four. They were teammates on two of those teams.
“We can unite and try to win a championship, something we didn’t do in college,” Augustus said.
It was a particularly newsy day over at the Lynx today. In other developments:
--Whalen, who spent a week, in Reeve’s words, bouncing off the wall, returned to practice today and will play Wednesday. Whalen had a 106-game streak ended last week when she missed a game after being poked in the eye in Tulsa.
At practice today she was wearing protective goggles – the same ones she wore when she had a similar injury six years ago – and will continue to wear the goggles for a while. Perhaps for the rest of the season.
--Augustus was moving around without a limp today and said she might be a little ahead of schedule in her return from knee surgery. That said, the goal is still for her to return in mid-August.
-In order to bring their roster back to 11 the Lynx will bring back former University of Minnesota star Shae Kelley, who should be at practice Wednesday.