Are Season Struggles and Injuries Putting A Damper On Sylvia Fowles' Farewell Tour?

(image credit: courtesy of the Minnesota Lynx on Twitter)

The Minnesota Lynx came into the 2022 WNBA season intending to put together another strong season to contend for a championship. They wanted to send center Sylvia Fowles out on top in her 15th and final year in the league.

Since the season began, those aspirations quickly diminished due to the Lynx’s surprisingly rough start to the summer. They are at the bottom of the WNBA standings at 4-13 overall following a road win over the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday.

On top of those early-season disappointments, Minnesota has continued to deal with an incomplete lineup due to injuries and absences. Fowles has become the latest addition to that growing list.

On June 7, the team announced that Fowles suffered a cartilage injury in her right knee that will sideline her for an indefinite period. It’s never good to see a player suffer an injury, whether it’s a minor injury or a serious one. But for Fowles, specifically, this injury is especially unfortunate during her last hurrah with the Lynx.

Fowles will return to the court this season, and we haven’t seen the last of her. But the start to the year — from the team’s early-season struggles to an injury she suffered in early June — might have already started to put a damper on Fowles’ farewell tour and the plans Minnesota had to send the all-time great off into retirement.

Adding to the List of Lynx Injuries

There’s no question the Lynx have had more injuries than any other team in the league. Since opening night on May 6, Minnesota’s roster has been a continuously changing group of players, with faces coming and going non-stop from the rotation.

That growing list of Lynx players on the injury report has recently expanded to reach Fowles, who had been healthy until June 7. For the most part, the veteran center has been able to stay on the court over the last few seasons without missing extended time due to injury. The only exception was the bubble season in Florida, when she only played in seven games during an injury-filled campaign.

In her final year this summer, Fowles had been Minnesota’s most reliable player through the first month-plus of the regular season. She played in Minnesota’s first 12 games and was the only Lynx player to start all of them until she suffered a right knee in early June that sidelined her indefinitely.

Fowles could reportedly return soon, according to Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune, which would be a welcomed surprise. But the injury still puts a bit of a damper on what is supposed to be a celebratory season of Fowles on the court. Still, Minnesota’s struggles could make things even worse and perhaps end her finale much earlier than hoped.

Slow Start Could Result in Abrupt Ending

Before her injury, Fowles had been enjoying the start to another All-Star-caliber season. The future Hall of Famer, who is playing in her 15th season (eighth in Minnesota), is averaging a double-double of 16.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. She’s also posted 1.5 steals, 1.2 blocks, and one assist in 32.2 minutes per game while shooting 64.1 percent from the field.

While continuing to climb up both franchise and league all-time leaderboards this year, Fowles not only leads Minnesota in numerous statistical categories, but she leads the WNBA in both rebounds per game and shooting percentage. She is enjoying yet another dominant season while showing no signs of slowing down at age 36. Still, the Lynx’s struggles have overshadowed a solid start to the year by the two-time WNBA champion and eight-time All-Star.

Minnesota, which has reached the postseason every season since 2010, could be on the brink of missing the playoffs altogether if it remains a bottom-four team in the league standings. There is a lot of season left to be played, but the Lynx will have to turn things around fast. Otherwise, they could see what they hoped would be a long season capped with a deep postseason run cut shorter than desired.

The 2022 campaign, the last of Fowles’ historic and successful career, will continue to be a deserving celebration honoring one of the best to ever step on the court. Although it could still turn into that, and the celebrations will continue regardless of how the team is performing, the early-season struggles and injuries could, unfortunately, put a damper on Fowles’ farewell tour.

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