Earlier this week, the Minnesota Lynx announced that Sylvia Fowles had undergone an MRI which revealed a cartilage injury in her right knee. They offered no further specifics about the injury or a return to play timeline, noting only that Fowles is out indefinitely.
Given the circumstances, there is a real chance we have seen the last of Fowles on a WNBA court. The legendary center, now 36, announced in February that this would be her final season in the league. With the Lynx off to a disappointing 3-10 start that already has them multiple games out of playoff position, there's little incentive for her to rush back.
Again, we don't know the specifics of the injury, so perhaps Fowles will be able to return at some point and give the fans a chance to see her again. But either way, with Fowles set for an extended spell on the sidelines, her injury has put the Lynx on the brink of a completely new era.
Fowles, who has been with the Lynx since 2015, is the last link to their dynastic run in the 2010s. From 2011 to 2017, the Lynx won four titles and went to the Finals six times. Fowles was instrumental in the latter half of that era, earning Finals MVP in both 2015 and 2017.
As the years went on, the other stalwarts from those teams parted ways. Maya Moore stepped away from basketball and both Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson retired following the 2018 season. Seimone Augustus left the team in free agency after the 2019 campaign.
That the Lynx remained highly competitive in recent years -- they still haven't missed the playoffs since 2010 -- is a credit to Fowles, who often put the team on her back. Even last season, her 14th in the league, she won Defensive Player of the Year for a historic fourth time, was one of only two players to average a double-double and led the Lynx to the No. 4 seed.
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While the results weren't coming this summer, Fowles was once again doing everything she could. She was again averaging a double-double at 16.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game -- the only player in the league doing so -- and was leading the league in rebounding and field goal percentage at 64.0.
When Fowles has been off the court this season, the Lynx are minus-17 points per 100 possessions, and they were crushed by the Mystics on Friday in the first game since her injury. With Napheesa Collier also out indefinitely on maternity leave, and the Lynx sitting in 11th place, it appears a first lottery appearance in over a decade is in the cards.
And while no one wanted Fowles' final season to go this way, that could be for the best for the Lynx. The 2023 draft class will be loaded, with South Carolina center Aliyah Boston leading the way. With a bit of luck, the Lynx could get a Fowles replacement straight away. Plus, in addition to their own pick, the Lynx have the Aces' first-round pick, and will have a chance to really reset the roster.