A quick question for local sports fans:
Can you remember any time in recent years when a high-profile player wanted so badly to play in Minnesota, he or she was willing to not play at all if it didn’t happen?
After months of up-and-down negotiations, the Lynx finally landed All-Star center Sylvia Fowles in a three-team trade this week. After holding out for half a season Fowles finally got what she wanted, to wear a Lynx uniform.
It is evidence that the Lynx are perhaps unique in this professional sports market in that they are a destination franchise.
“It felt so good to be here, be in this atmosphere,” Fowles said after her debut Wednesday. “This whole process was deflating [at times]. But, me sticking to my guns and wanting to be here, I think it says a lot.”
A combination of good fortune and savvy moves have created a franchise other league teams are trying to emulate. It is a team with both great talent and good people. It was a situation Fowles was willing to hold out for.
“It’s quite a statement,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It speaks to the quality of individuals we have on this team, the leaders.”
The core of a team that has won two titles in four years was built slowly. Seimone Augustus was here when Reeve came. Executive Vice President Roger Griffith traded for Lindsay Whalen, acquired Rebekkah Brunson in the dispersal draft, was fortunate to draft Maya Moore No. 1. But it’s not luck that the foundation of this team is as good off the court as on it. Reeve said the Lynx, perhaps more than any other team in the league, weigh personality as much as talent when making decisions.
And Reeve has fostered a sense of investment from her stars by making them a part of the process. “I don’t do anything without Lindsay, Seimone, Maya and Brunson knowing about it,” she said. “It’s important. These guys spend time with these players. There are things we don’t know as coaches. I promised them, I will never bring a knucklehead into this group. And if we made a mistake and brought a knucklehead into this group, I’d get rid of ’em.”
It’s created an environment good players want to be a part of.
“You can be great people and not win, and they’re not going to want to come join you,” Reeve said. “But great people and win? People want to be a part of it.”
After her debut Wednesday, Fowles raved about the organization, praised the coaches for their honesty — and intensity.
“It feels good to get back to the basics,” she said.
Reeve isn’t surprised. Her work as an assistant in 2012 with the U.S. national team at the Olympics proved to her that Moore, Augustus and Whalen are special, and not just for their talent. It became clear when she saw them among all the other great players on the team.
“I walked away going, ‘I already kind of knew why [the Lynx] won,’ ” Reeve said. “But I was really sure when I walked away.”
She wasn’t the only one who noticed. Fowles was on that team, too.