Sylvia Fowles still might get that fairy tale ending — Hear from Syl — Must-click women’s basketball links
The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, August 10, 2022
There have been plenty of ways in which the final campaigns of Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles have not been treated equally. Things that were controllable, like how many stories were written, or how many All Star game balls are given out (just have two? One from each half? How did this happen?).
But in some ways, the two seasons have diverged in areas that no one can do anything about. Bird, playing with Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and a deep Seattle team, will be in the playoffs. After Washington lost two straight, there should be additional home games in Bird’s future, too, with the Storm holding the four seed at the moment.
Meanwhile, Fowles has been subject to a Minnesota Lynx campaign in which seemingly everything that could go wrong has. And entering the last two weeks of the season, any number of things had to go right, many of them beyond what the Lynx could control, to steer Minnesota into the playoffs.
It is notable to me how many of these things have happened, however. With five days to go, the Lynx can pull themselves into a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots with a win against a Phoenix Mercury team missing Diana Taurasi. If New York wins tonight, it’s four teams for two spots.
But regardless: the Lynx hold the tiebreaker over all three of those teams. Same with the Sparks, who are one game back entering tonight. It’ll be entirely in Minnesota’s hands from there, if they win tonight.
Now that said: it’s a hard road that follows. Friday night, they host the Storm. Sunday, they are in Connecticut. However, there’s ample reason to think both these teams, by the time they face Minnesota, will have far less to play for.
Moreover, this is a different Lynx team than its record. Adding a top-ten WNBA player in Napheesa Collier does that to your roster. And Sylvia Fowles, who is somehow playing at the best level of her career at age 36 on a bad knee, knows how to leave the tank empty. It reminds me quite a bit of Mariano Rivera’s final season with the Yankees, a master we’ll never see again understanding his days are short and his team needed the most of him — somehow, finding it.
This is what Syl, the leader in field goal percentage for her career yet somehow shooting above it this year, the all-time WNBA leader in rebounder grabbing a higher percentage of them this year than her career rate, is doing in 2022 for the Minnesota Lynx. It’s simply incredible to behold.
It also reminds me of Tamika Catchings‘ final season back in 2016, a player I continue to view as the clear and obvious choice for best ever in this league, still performing at an elite level in a pre-determined final season. The basketball fan in me would love nothing more than a Catchings comeback, even now, to see what she has left in the tank. Tamika has what, 11 other jobs, so it’s fine, of course, and she has insisted to me she doesn’t miss it. Still, wouldn’t you love to see at least one more Catchings game? I sure would. She’s the all-time WNBA leader in win shares!
And that’s the same with Fowles. There’s a pathway to some bonus Sylvia Fowles time. While Catchings is atop the all-time win shares leaderboard, there’s a new face in second place, just ahead of Lauren Jackson now (who we get to see play more this fall on Team Australia, by the way: hooray!): it is Fowles. Not Bird, not Taurasi. Sylvia Fowles. To use the Bill James Hall of Fame summaries — a peak case and a career case for the best five in WNBA history.
And don’t assume if the Lynx get there they’ll be quickly dispatched. They managed to beat both the current 1 and 2 seeds, Chicago and Las Vegas, in their final times playing each, and that was without Collier. Give Cheryl Reeve enough time and she usually figures it out.
If there’s a more intriguing team to watch over this final week, and potentially beyond, well, I’m not seeing it.
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