May 25, 2021 | ESPN.com
WITH A WIDE smile and a clap of her hands, Sylvia Fowles brings her Minnesota Lynx teammates together in a dark tunnel that leads to their home court at Target Center.
“Take care of each other; protect each other,” Fowles says as music from the arena seeps into their huddle, the noise growing louder as the 2,000-some fans prepare to greet their long-gone team.
Fowles, a 14-year veteran who is in her seventh season with Minnesota, brings up the rear as the Lynx take the court for their 2021 season opener on May 14 — their first official game in Minneapolis in 621 days.
Almost nothing is the same as it was the last time. The roster is different. The crowd is smaller, and masks outnumber the jerseys in the stands. But the excitement surrounding the four-time WNBA champions is palpable, a stark contrast to how the city has felt over the traumatic past year.
“Minneapolis hasn’t been the same in a long time,” says Lynx guard Rachel Banham, who grew up in a Minneapolis suburb. “It’s a little more eerie.”