Monday, August 15, 2022

Lynx’s Napheesa Collier hoping to return from maternity leave before end of season to play with Sylvia Fowles

Minnesota Lynx star Napheesa Collier has been out all season after giving birth to her daughter, Mila, on May 25. She has not ruled out a return, however, and is still hoping to play at some point before the end of the regular season. 

Collier was back in Minneapolis earlier this week to resume on-court workouts after being cleared by her doctors. However, a final decision on when or if she’ll be able to play this summer remains a ways off and will depend on how her body responds in the coming weeks. 

“The biggest thing [other players who have given birth] told me is that this is hard to do,” Collier said in an interview with Kent Youngblood of the Minnesota Star Tribune. “I have to listen to myself, my body. Not rush it.”

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A motivating factor for Collier to return ahead of schedule is a final chance to play with Sylvia Fowles. The future Hall of Famer, who has spent the last eight seasons with the Lynx and helped the team win two titles, announced she will retire at the end of the season. 

“Yes, that’s one of the biggest reasons I’m here, to play with Syl,” Collier said. “I love her so much. I want to work back as fast as I can. But I don’t want to push it, hurt myself. I want to be ready. It was a big thing my body went through.”

The 2019 Rookie of the Year, Collier already has already made two All-Star Games, an All-WNBA Second Team and an All-Defensive Second Team in her three seasons. Even though her efficiency dropped last season, she averaged 16.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. 

She’s one of the most versatile players in the league, and her absence has been notable for the Lynx, who got off to a 3-13 start. When Fowles was also out indefinitely with a knee injury, it seemed the Lynx might be best off tanking for a top draft pick and resetting for a new era. 

Since then, however, they’re 5-2, with wins over the league’s top two teams, the Chicago Sky and Las Vegas Aces. Fowles is back in action and looking like her usual unstoppable self, and all of a sudden they’re just 2.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. 

There’s still a long way to go for the Lynx, but they have a real chance to extend their playoff streak to 12 seasons — especially if Collier can come back at some point after the All-Star break. 

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