When the call finally came, after seven months of waiting, Sylvia Fowles was so happy she could hardly function.
“I was a tad bit excited,” Fowles admitted Tuesday at the Lynx’s practice facility, still sporting the grin forward Maya Moore said the newcomer came to practice with.
Fowles had been waiting for word since January that she would be coming to Minnesota. Through ups and downs, she might have lost hope. But Sunday, after dormant negotiations revived, Fowles finally got the call. And she couldn’t even bring herself to pack.
“It’s like Christmas times three,” she said.
Funny, her new teammates feel the same way. A whirlwind few days included getting the call late Sunday, finally packing and flying to Minnesota on Monday, arriving and spending a good five hours with her old college teammate Seimone Augustus and spending a mostly sleepless night before her first practice Tuesday.
After a three-way trade involving the Lynx, Chicago and Atlanta, the 29-year-old is where she wants to be.
“I wanted to be in a place that was already established,” Fowles said.
The 6-6 center and three-time WNBA All-Star joins a Lynx team now clearly favored to vie for a third title in five years. And for Fowles, who spent her first seven seasons in Chicago, the change in culture was immediate. Fowles said Moore was on her right away, showing her everything she needed to do. Lynx Executive Vice President Roger Griffith said Augustus — still recovering from knee surgery — burned more calories of nervous energy on the sidelines wishing she could be on the court than the players practicing.
“‘Way’ was on the smooth side,” Fowles said, referring to point guard Lindsay Whalen. “She was like, ‘Just go out and do what you do.’ But everyone was in my ear. There is a high expectation here. That’s something I need.”
And has wanted, for months. She let Chicago know she wanted to come to Minnesota in January. And that kick-started a months-long negotiating process that came close to getting done July 4, only to fall through again. Griffith said that when things again heated up over the weekend, he was surprised at how quickly it finally got done.
Fowles, meanwhile, had not played basketball since returning from China in February. It was, she said, something she had to do.
“It was hard,” she said. “I didn’t want to sit out. But for me to prove a point, that’s something you have to do. I’m not sure how long I’m [going to] stay in this league. Chicago has been great for me the past seven seasons. … But this is something I wanted. Coming to Minnesota is the next chapter.”
Fowles said she craved the ensemble feel of the Lynx, filled with former Olympic teammates and a situation that doesn’t feel like the burden is all on her shoulders. After one practice, she raved about how everyone on the team was a leader.
Ultimately, Fowles feels this is a place where she can win a title. “As a player, this is something you look for,” she said. “You want to play with the best of the best, on the highest level.”
So now it starts. She has tried to stay in shape, but hasn’t played basketball for a while. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said she wants to ease Fowles into the lineup and hasn’t decided whether she’ll start Wednesday against Los Angeles.
Fowles said it’s her intention to come in, “rebound like crazy,” play defense and let the points come from that work. She said, in the end, the time off will help come playoff time.
On Monday, Augustus — who played in two NCAA Final Fours with Fowles at Louisiana State — said she wanted Fowles to experience what she had in winning a WNBA title. On Tuesday, Moore echoed that thought.
“We want to make sure she gets to be a part of and feel the awesome things we’ve been able to experience here,” Moore said. “She wants that, we want that. This was the first day.”