Fowles shocks Sky with demand to be traded

Updated 5/8/2015 7:55 PM
  • Veteran center Sylvia Fowles (34) has decided she will not return to the Sky this season and wants to be traded.

    Veteran center Sylvia Fowles (34) has decided she will not return to the Sky this season and wants to be traded. Associated Press

We all have our personal biases.

Like in basketball, I'm always going to be biased in favor of the bigs. I was a post player in college, so I can relate. It's tough inside the paint, and not for the faint of heart.

Not everyone gets what it's like to be shoved and pushed around on every play. Not everyone gets how frustrating it can be to have to rely on the "generosity" of your teammates for the majority of your offense.

So, I always cheer extra hard for the bigs, and give them the benefit of the doubt -- which is what I'm trying to do right now with Sylvia Fowles.

The 6-foot-6 Fowles has been the Chicago Sky's star center for the last seven years. I've covered her from the day she was drafted by the Sky in 2008.

I certainly appreciate Fowles as a player -- she's one of the best bigs in the world, a WNBA all-star and the centerpiece of the Sky -- and I have also grown to really like her as a person. She's one of the sweetest and most humble WNBA players I know.

But I am having a hard time understanding where she is coming from right now.

Fowles is done with the Chicago Sky. Totally done. She will not be in a Sky uniform this summer. Her choice.

"I've thought long and hard about it and I just want something different," Fowles told me Friday afternoon. "I thought about how Chicago has come a long way (from struggling expansion team in 2006 to the WNBA Finals last season) and how blessed I've been to be in Chicago for seven seasons, but that still didn't override me wanting to do new things. I want to do something different."

Fowles says that she wants a change of scenery and is seeking to be traded. She is designated as the Sky's one "core" player (think franchise player), which means that the Sky gives her the league's maximum salary (approximately $109,000), but she is prohibited from negotiating or signing with any other team. Unless she is traded.

She has asked to be sent to one team, and one team only. Insiders speculate that team is the Minnesota Lynx, which has won two WNBA championships since 2011.

If a trade can't be worked out, Fowles told me that she is prepared to sit out the entire 2015 season. She would be the third superstar lost by the WNBA for the upcoming summer, with Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker each sitting out to rest their ailing, overworked bodies.

I think a trade with the Lynx is highly unlikely. Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve adores her core of three Olympians in Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen. I don't see her giving up any of them, and it essentially would take an Olympian for a trade of Fowles to make sense for the Sky.

On the one hand, I can understand why Fowles, or any player in the league for that matter, would want to play for the Lynx. The team has been a legitimate title contender every season in recent years.

But here's the thing: the Sky might be an even more legitimate contender to win the WNBA championship THIS season.

The Sky, which made a fabulous run to the Finals last season in spite of a boatload of injuries to key players, acquired superstar guard Cappie Pondexter over the off-season. The dynamic Elena Delle Donne appears to be healthy, injury-free and primed for a full season. And Courtney Vandersloot continues to shape herself into one of the best point guards in the league.

Of all years, why would "Big Syl" want to leave now? She's put so much work into this franchise, taken so much physical abuse over the years in the name of the Sky, dealt with so many tough losses, so much heartache.

This season could finally be her big payoff.

"I think I could have been anywhere and wanted to leave, it could have been Connecticut or anywhere," Fowles said. "I'm at the point in my career where I want to do something new.

"It kind of sucks that (because of the core rule), we're kind of stuck in a bubble even if we want to experience new things."

As someone who has been doing the same job for nearly 20 years, I can appreciate Fowles' desire to do something different, to work for and with others. She says you can expand and improve your game by doing that. Probably true.

But she actually gets that opportunity every year when she plays overseas during the off-season, with and against different people. She's played in multiple countries over her career, including Russia, Turkey and China.

So, that leaves me to keep wondering if this is really about something else.

Maybe not.

But ... maybe.

Publicly, Fowles is very gracious about the Sky. She speaks fondly about her time in Chicago. She's not complaining about the coaching staff, about management, about teammates. She is being understated and classy, and I wouldn't expect anything less.

Meanwhile, Sky coach and general manager Pokey Chatman told me this week that everyone associated with the franchise loves Fowles and has tried everything they can think of to get her to stay.

"You're in a long line of people who are shocked by this," Chatman told me on Thursday. "It's not anything about animosity or anything like that. It's just disappointing because Syl is such an important piece for us."

OK. So, none of that really helps me wrap my head around this any better. If anything, I'm more confused.

I don't get it. It doesn't make any sense, and the timing of all of this is strange, and certainly unfortunate for hungry Sky fans.

Before this Fowles news broke, I thought the Sky was the heavy favorite to win its first WNBA championship this summer (barring any major injuries or illnesses, of course).

Now, I'm not so sure.

All I do know for sure is that it won't ever be the same around Allstate Arena without "Big Syl" on the floor in a Sky uniform.

Side note: I would like to make a clarification about my column from last week, which gave insight into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and referenced plans for an Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame in Pinckneyville.

The museum proposed for Pinckneyville reportedly is on hold, lacking funding; however there are plans for another Basketball Hall of Fame in Illinois.

A museum that is reportedly endorsed by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association is slated to be opened in Pontiac in 2016. It is being headed up by Bruce Firchau, and Elburn resident who recently retired as the boys basketball coach at Westminster Christian in Elgin.

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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