There was at least one person who, taking a look at the Lynx schedule when it first came out, was a little disappointed.

For center Sylvia Fowles, the waiting was the hardest part.

Thirteen games and a month and a half into a 34-game season, the Lynx and Mercury will finally play Friday night in Phoenix. For Fowles, that means going against center Brittney Griner. And that's a good thing.

"I do love that matchup," Fowles said, "because Brittney is a true 5. I love playing true 5s, who get into the paint, who like to bang, who like to smack you around a little bit. I look forward to it. BG is the one. I know it will be a challenge, and I like a challenge."

Said Griner: "I always look forward to the matchup, because me and Syl are basically the same height, wingspan. We both want to post up and go to the basket. So I always look forward to that.''

When two great heavyweight boxers meet, people take notice.

It's kind of the same thing in basketball.

No question the game is changing. More and more it's about three-pointers, position flexibility. But there is still something about two great centers going against one another.

Which brings us to Friday.

Both teams are playing new-age basketball with old-school centers. Both teams are creating space on the perimeter by drawing defenders inside. And in this case, it's not just two dominant centers. In terms of back-to-the-basket, feet-in-the-paint centers, Fowles and Griner might be giving fans the two best performances in WNBA history.

"I would agree with that," ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson said. "You look at the way the game has evolved, how players with size have become more perimeter-oriented, Sylvia and Brittney are low-block, dominant centers."

When the WNBA selected the 20 best players in the first 20 years of the league, three centers were named: Lisa Leslie, Lauren Jackson and Yolanda Griffith. All great, dominant players. But none of the three was a classic center. Leslie and Jackson, in particular, liked to stretch the court with their shooting range.

Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson guarded Leslie and Jackson and was Griffith's teammate when Sacramento won a league title in 2005 and Griffith was finals MVP.

"Two feet in the paint, every play, every time down the court? Those two are the best the league has seen," Brunson said of Fowles and Griner. "Setting the tone down low? Yeah, it's those guys."

Playing at their peak

Already very, very good, both players have taken big jumps this season.

Fowles is the only player in the top five in the league in field-goal percentage, scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks. Griner leads the league in scoring and blocks.

Both are responding to coaches who wanted more. After last season, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve sat down with Fowles and asked to go from great to dominant. In Phoenix, knowing there would be a huge turnover on the team — Griner and guard Diana Taurasi are the only returning starters — coach Sandy Brondello told her center she would have to do more, too.

"We have a whole new team," Brondello said. "I wanted her taking a bigger role."

Both centers have become more aggressive, relentless. Both are demanding the ball. Both are playing with greater confidence.

And both have become the crux of their respective offenses.

"Right now, both teams are running everything through their center," Reeve said. "We mirror each other in that way."

Both create space for their teammates by drawing so much attention. "What happens with players like Sylvia and Brittney is you have to change your entire offense," Robinson said.

Rebecca Lobo played in the WNBA and now works for ESPN. She sees two players who have taken huge leaps in their game.

"Since she got into the league [as the top overall pick in the 2013 draft], a lot of people have been waiting for Brittney to have that breakout season," Lobo said. "She has now taken it to another level, and it's been fun to watch."

And what about Fowles? "You look at Sylvia. You always wondered, she's such a sweet person, does she have it in her to have that beast mentality people talk about? Well, she has it this year. She wants the ball. She's burying defenders on her back, getting position. It seems the game is coming easier for her."

When talking about the best post players ever, Lobo was more noncommittal. She mentioned Leslie and Jackson and put Tina Charles in the conversation. Not surprisingly, Brondello and Reeve were far more certain.

"It doesn't get any more classic than Fowles and Griner," Brondello said.

Said Reeve: "Our league hasn't seen 6-8, 6-6, dominant-in-the-interior centers. I know people reference Lisa Leslie. She was not that. Not that she wasn't tough. But there was more finesse in her game. From a center standpoint, there is no question Sylvia and Brittney are the two best in the history of our game."

'Fun to strategize'

It has always been Seimone Augustus' contention that there is only one woman in the WNBA — really, only one in the world — who can stop Fowles on a basketball court:


The point is Fowles would sometimes take herself out of a game with a lack of aggressiveness. That hasn't been a problem this year. "Now Syl is hitting that beast mode," Augustus said. "Now I don't know who can guard her. It's going to be a great matchup to see her and Brittney."

It is, in a way, a heavyweight matchup. Like Ali vs. Frazier, perhaps. Or Chamberlain vs. Abdul-Jabbar.

Since Fowles came to Minnesota in July 2015, the two have faced each other 11 times overall, five times in the playoffs. The Lynx lost the first two games but have won the past nine. Fowles has averaged 14.2 points and 10.2 rebounds overall in those games, 11.6 and 10.4 in the playoffs. Griner has averaged 10.5 and 5.5 overall, 10.2 and 4.6 in the playoffs.

But both have improved so dramatically it's like the slate has been wiped clean.

"I hope they get a chance to play against each other as long as each coach wants to play 'em, 30 minutes or so," Reeve said. "Hopefully nothing gets in the way. Because I think this matchup is going to be fun. Fun to strategize, fun to watch."

Fowles was asked if she and Griner might be the two best ever. "We definitely can be there," she said. "We have some things to work on. But I think we can be two of the best post players of all time.''

Moore leads voting

Lynx star Maya Moore led all WNBA players in fan voting for the All-Star Game in the latest results released Thursday.

Moore, a starter for the Western Conference in all four of her All-Star appearances, had received 19,949 votes. Second was Washington star Elena Delle Donne, who led the Eastern Conference with 19,280.

The top frontcourt vote-getters in the West were Moore, Los Angeles center Candace Parker (17,127) and Fowles (15,159). Leading in the backcourt were Seattle's Sue Bird (16,139) and Taurasi (15,207).

In the East, Delle Donne, New York's Charles (12,055) and Connecticut center Jonquel Jones (10,585) were the leaders in the frontcourt, while Atlanta's Tiffany Hayes (4,288) and Indiana's Tiffany Mitchell (4,202) led in the backcourt.

The All-Star Game is July 22 in Seattle.