Napheesa Collier wishes she was here.
The Lynx forward is due to deliver her first child, a girl, later this month. The Lynx are slated to open their season Friday in Seattle, then have their home opener against Washington on Sunday.
Collier had to settle for a Zoom call from her home in Missouri to talk about having signed a three-year contract extension on Monday.
"I wish I could be there to see the team, be there with them in person, cheering them on," Collier said. "But it's too close to the due date."
But whenever Collier comes back, it will be for the long term, and that's important. General Manager and coach Cheryl Reeve talked about Collier's dependability, defensive versatility, consistency and nonstop motor.
"It's what defines her as a great player," Reeve said of her two-time WNBA All-Star and member of Team USA that won gold in Tokyo last summer. "The special thing about Phee is that she can do things you don't coach. That will be a challenge for us as we wait for Phee, the stuff she can create on her own."
Couple that with the fact Collier is one of the league's more popular players and you have a cornerstone for a franchise that will move on without center Sylvia Fowles next year.
"You can't be successful without that," Reeve said. "If you don't have that, you don't know from one year to the next what you'll look like. She is so well-liked, the message of Phee believing in this organization will allow us to attract similar players. It's a huge bonus."
Collier, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 draft who won the Rookie of the Year award, thanked Reeve for making her better by pushing her out of her comfort zone. "I'm so excited to come back and be a part of this organization for years to come," she said. "I have so much faith in Cheryl and I know how bright the future is. Minnesota is the best organization for a reason."
When asked what she was most proud of so far in her career, Collier mentioned her growth as a player. When asked her favorite Collier memory, Reeve talked about Collier's first game, when she scored 27 points (still tied for her career high) with six rebounds, three blocks and two assists. This after a difficult training camp.
"We didn't think Phee would be in the running for Rookie of the Year after a few weeks of training camp," Reeve said. "It was a real moment for us."
So now the question is will Collier, who is engaged to basketball skills coach Alex Bazzell, be able to get back in time this summer to have a few more on-court moments with Fowles?
"I'm going to try everything that I can to come back and be able to play with Syl," she said. "I would love to, especially for her last year. And I miss playing. I want to get back on the court. So I'm trying to prepare my body, and I'm going to do everything afterwards to prepare my body to be able to do that."
To that end, Fowles has referred her Pilates instructor — whose experience includes training with new mothers — to work with Collier.
"She's always trying to be so special," Collier said.