Two players allowed the Lynx to remain in the championship conversation as the organization transitioned out of its dynasty phase — Sylvia Fowles and Napheesa Collier.
The former is entering her last WNBA season, and Minnesota is doing everything in its power to send the center out on top. The latter is the face of the franchise’s future, which was secured this week via a multi-year extension.
By selecting Collier No. 6 overall out of UConn in the 2019 WNBA Draft and watching the 6-foot-1 forward shoot out of the gates like a rocket, the Lynx turned what looked like a rebuild into a reload, and haven’t looked back since.
“She gave us the opportunity to continue as a franchise aspiring to championships,” Lynx coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said at a virtual press conference Thursday. “Lucky, whatever you want to call it, we’re glad that it happened, and we’re excited to make Phee a cornerstone to our franchise moving forward.”
Collier is everything a franchise could want in a cornerstone. She’s a two-way standout who does all of the things Reeve said you cannot coach. She knows how to play the game the correct way and does so with a nonstop motor. Already a two-time all-star, Olympian and All-WNBA performer, the 25-year-old is a “top 10” player in the league, Reeve said. Yet it’s who she is off the court that defines her stature within the organization.
“What defines Phee as a great player is who she is as a person, which is consistent,” Reeve said. “Every time you see Phee, she’s the same. It doesn’t matter whether she had a bad day maybe on the court or whatever maybe will be happening, you just never know it with Phee. And she does it on the court, too. She doesn’t show it on emotion where you ride ups and downs and that sort of thing. Phee is so consistent in her behavior and how she treats people.”
As the Lynx experienced firsthand this week with a flurry of necessary roster moves, consistency can be hard to come by in the WNBA. In signing Collier to this extension, they’ve assured their face — and thus, their identity — will remain for years to come. That’s what franchises strive for, Reeve said. Having a presence like Collier attached to the organization only makes Minnesota a more desirable landing spot for players across the league.
“It feels really good, and it kind of feels like an honor that Cheryl wants that for me, and that she sees me being here long term, because obviously I love it,” Collier said. “And it’s really cool to hopefully bring in other people who want the same things that we do and who have the same goals and ambitions that we do as an organization, which is to win championships. So I’m really excited, and I think it’s something that can happen in the next couple of years.”
Maybe even this year? Collier is creeping up on her due date for her first child but isn’t ruling out a return to action by season’s end. She’s highly motivated to play with Fowles in the 36-year-old center’s final season. Fowles has even referred Collier to her Pilates instructor, who specializes in post-partum recovery.
“I’m going to try everything that I can to come back and be able to play with Syl. I would love to, especially for her last year, and I miss playing,” Collier said. “I want to be back on the court. I’m trying to prepare my body and I’m going to do everything afterwards to prepare my body to be able to do that.”
But for now, Collier will watch from afar. She is excited to even do that. This is, after all, her team, and will be for the foreseeable future.
“I’m so excited to come back and be a part of this organization for years to come. I have so much faith in Cheryl and what our team can do,” Collier said. “I know how bright our future is. Minnesota is home. It’s the best organization for a reason. What we bring to the table and what Cheryl is able to do with us every year is amazing, so I’m so excited to get back on the court, and to watch and cheer on the team until I do, and to stay here for the years coming up.”