The beast is back.
Over the years, Sky head coach Pokey Chatman has wavered in her description of 6-foot-6 center Sylvia Fowles.
When Fowles lets defenses get the best of her, when she gets frustrated with contact, Chatman uses the term "gentle giant," insinuating that Fowles' unassuming, reserved personality off the court sometimes seeps into her play on the court.
But when Fowles comes out and plays like she did in an 86-75 victory on Friday night against the Connecticut Sun in the Sky's home opener at Allstate Arena, Chatman lovingly refers to her veteran center as a "beast," which might not sound all that flattering for a woman, but certainly is for one whose job is to scare the daylights out of opponents with over-the-top aggressive and physical play.
"When Syl gets in that zone she has, it IS scary for anyone guarding her," Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot confirmed. "She's stronger and faster than a lot of post players that she goes up against. She is so tough to guard. She's special. She needs to come out like this every night for us, and that will be good."
It would be better than good. Fowles pumped in a game-high 24 points and ripped down a career-high 22 rebounds for the Sky, which was up by as many as 15 points and moved to 2-0 on the season for its best start in franchise history.
"We talked all during training camp about toughness and that's what toughness looks like," Chatman said of Fowles.
Fowles also played 35 minutes against the Sun, after getting just 21 minutes in Monday's season opener in Phoenix. She was plagued with foul trouble early.
"I've got to battle. I can't be gentle this year. I'm not going to be a gentle giant," said Fowles, one of 13 players in WNBA history to roll up 20-plus points and 20-plus rebounds in a game. "Yeah, I get banged up, but I've got to bang right back. I just have to gut-check myself.
"I made a promise to myself that I would go out and dominate this season. I think I'm getting off on a good note."
So is Sky rookie Elena Delle Donne. The 6-foot-5 forward followed up her 22-point, 8-rebound performance in Phoenix with 20 points against the Sun, which drops to 1-1.
The Sky, which is out to earn its first playoff berth in the eight-year history of the franchise, also got 17 points out of guard Epiphanny Prince.
"It's only two games," Chatman said. "But we look hungry, and we should be. You know, we've been starving for several years here."
The Sun had three players in double figures, led by guard Allison Hightower with 20 points and center Tina Charles with 16 points.