On Sunday, Minnesota Lynx star Napheesa Collier announced that she is expecting a baby girl with her fiancé, skills trainer Alex Bazzell, who works with NBA All-Stars Carmelo Anthony, Trae Young and Kyrie Irving. The baby's due date is in May of next year, which means Collier will miss at least the beginning of the 2022 WNBA season.
"I am very excited to start a family with my fiancé Alex," Collier said in a statement. "Having a child is truly a beautiful journey and I am grateful to have the support of our families, friends and the Lynx as I begin this special chapter of motherhood."
"On behalf of Lynx players, coaches and staff, I want to share our heartfelt congratulations to Napheesa, Alex and their families," Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said. "We are eager to support Phee through this exciting journey and look forward to welcoming the newest addition to our Lynx family. Being a parent is an exceptional joy and we wish Phee a healthy pregnancy."
First and foremost, this is terrific news for Collier and her family. Hopefully the process will be as easy as possible, and both her and the baby will remain healthy throughout. That's the most important thing.
At the same time, there is a big basketball component here as well. While the schedule still hasn't come out yet, the WNBA season typically begins in the middle of May -- the same month Collier is expecting. Neither she nor the Lynx has said anything official about her plans for the season, but it's clear she won't be ready for opening night and will miss at least a chunk of games. For what it's worth, Phoenix Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith sat out the entire 2019 season after giving birth in April of that year.
However long she's out, it's going to be a huge loss for the Lynx, as we saw last season when they started out 0-3 without Collier, and went 22-7 with her in the lineup. She's one of the most versatile players in the league, and put up 16.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game last season en route to her second All-Star appearance.
The Lynx made a number of big free agent signings last offseason, including Kayla McBride and Aerial Powers, in an attempt to get back into title contention. But while they had a great regular season and finished in third place at 22-10, they were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by the eventual champion Chicago Sky.
If Collier misses significant time this season, that will be a big blow to their hopes of contending again. It could also change the trajectory of their franchise. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles is now 36 and nearing the end of her career. She said after last season that she's undecided about whether to come back for 2022, and Collier's absence could make her less inclined to play. And even if she does play next season, will she be ready to go again in 2023 when Collier would be back at full strength?
Only time will tell, but it appears that the Lynx are in for another time of transition.