A trio of Minnesota Lynx players are making history with their selections to the 2019 WNBA All-Star Game this weekend in Las Vegas.
Lynx center Sylvia Fowles, guard Odyssey Sims and rookie forward Napheesa Collier will all represent Minnesota in the league’s annual showcase on July 27 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
With Minnesota sending those three players to Sin City, it marks the seventh time in Lynx franchise history that they will have three or more representatives playing in the game, which is the most in WNBA history for a single franchise.
“It feels amazing, especially to play with two of my teammates down there and with all the other great players in the league,” Collier said of taking part in her first All-Star Game. “I’m super excited to get down there and I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Following an All-Star Draft on Tuesday night on ESPN2 — which featured All-Star Game captains Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics and A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces selecting players for their respective teams — Fowles, Sims and Collier will all play together on Team Wilson on Saturday.
Along with playing in the 16th annual All-Star Game, which will begin at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday on ABC, Sims and Collier will also be battling against six other WNBA players in the Skills Challenge at 6 p.m. CT on Friday night on ESPN.
“It’s very special, I’m happy. With it being my first time, just kind of letting it all sink in right now,” Sims said. “We are definitely looking forward to the weekend and those couple of days in Vegas.”
A New Experience for Sims, Collier
This season, the All-Star Game and taking part in the weekend as a whole will be a brand new experience for Sims and Collier.
For the Lynx as a whole, having players selected to the game has been a common occurrence. But this season, having a pair of players being selected to the showcase for the first time has been somewhat refreshing.
“Over the last five or six years, we’ve just had repeat All-Stars. The environment around getting announced you were on the All-Star team was a little different,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said. “I forgot what it felt like to be somebody’s first. So it was refreshing.”
Sims, in her sixth year in the WNBA and her first in Minnesota this summer, is taking part in the game on Saturday for the first time after being chosen as a reserve earlier in the week.
“We just got back to Minnesota (when I found out), I was getting off the plane and I got a phone call. And it was my birthday last Saturday, so I was really, really hyped,” Sims said. “Just from the time that I’ve been here until now, everything has been great. I keep telling you guys that because I’m just happy.
“You see it on the court, I’m smiling more and I’m just really enjoying this group. Being at the midway point, we still have a lot of work to do. … Slowly but surely, but we are going to peak at the right time.”
Through the first 20 games, Sims is enjoying a nice bounce-back year as a starter with the Lynx. She is averaging a team-best 14.7 points (13th in WNBA), team-high 5.3 assists (eighth in WNBA), 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 32.7 minutes per game.
“The timing of her being here put her in this position that there was an opening. … The opportunity, that’s what it’s about often times with players, but you have to seize that opportunity,” Reeve said. “I can’t say that I sat there and envisioned that she would be an All-Star (when trading for her), I didn’t even think about it. I was just trying to figure out how we were going to win the first game and what our offense was going to look like. I’m happy that it’s worked out so well for her.”
For Collier, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft this past April, she has quickly put her name near the top of the list in the league to win the Rookie of the Year award at season’s end.
After being selected as an injury replacement for Las Vegas’ Wilson earlier this week, Collier will be the lone rookie taking part in the All-Star Game and is the first Lynx rookie since Maya Moore in 2011 to play in the game.
“I was really excited. … Obviously this was a goal and to reach it my rookie year, I’m just so honored that I get to be in this position,” Collier said. “I knew (being named as an injury replacement) was a possibility. I didn’t know for sure if it was going to be me or not, but I was obviously really excited when I got that call.
“I think it’s just going to be a really cool experience overall and I’m sure we’ll get to spend a lot of time together just with all the things that we have to do.”
In her rookie campaign, Collier is averaging 11.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 0.9 blocks in 32.5 minutes per game as a starter in Minnesota. She ranks second among WNBA rookies in scoring, second in rebounding and fourth in assists, while ranking fifth in the league overall in steals and fifth in minutes played.
“Whatever you give her, she listens, she adjusts and she helps us so much defensively. … It’s another piece,” Reeve said of Collier. “Without her being able to be so nimble for us, that time without Damiris (earlier this season) might have been more difficult.”
Selection No. 6 for Fowles
In Fowles’ 12th WNBA season this summer, five of which have been spent in Minnesota, the center will be taking part in her sixth All-Star Game on Saturday.
While enjoying yet another dominant season through 20 games, the 2017 WNBA Most Valuable Player and two-time champion earned her third straight selection to the game this year.
“It’s an honor to get picked year-in and year-out,” Fowles said. “I’m just happy that our fans did a good job in making sure I go to Vegas. It will be a good one.”
Heading into the All-Star Break, Fowles is averaging 14.5 points (14th in WNBA), a team-best 9.8 rebounds (second), 1.3 assists, 1.3 blocks (12th) and 1.1 steals in 30.7 minutes per contest for Minnesota.
“I think now you are seeing Syl is much more in a groove and a rhythm in a season,” Reeve said of Fowles. “She’s in the mindset that this is an honor. … She’ll be happy that she is honored.”
Fowles made her first All-Star appearance back in 2009, also reaching the game in 2011, 2013, 2017, 2018 and now in 2019.
Although it’s not her first time taking part in the annual showcase, Fowles is still happy to get the chance to participate in the festivities this season. But she’s not losing focus of what ultimately matters once All-Star Weekend concludes.
“I just remember having a lot of the older (players) around. I was very happy to be with their company,” Fowles recalled. “It’s going to be a whirlwind, they have us doing a lot of things during the weekend. But just soaking up the moment, having fun and not being afraid to let loose for a couple of days.
“Not losing sight on what we have to do when we get back, but enjoy All-Star. That’s all you can do is enjoy it.”
2019 WNBA All-Star Weekend Schedule
(All times listed in Central Time)
Friday, July 26
Skills Challenge and 3-Point Contest, 6 p.m. on ESPN
Saturday, July 27
AT&T 2019 WNBA All-Star Game, 2:30 p.m. on ABC