Sylvia Fowles has been cleared to return after missing five games with a cartilage injury in her right knee, the Minnesota Lynx announced on Thursday.
In a corresponding move, the Lynx had to release forward Nikolina Milić from her 10-day hardship contract.
She is available for the home game against the Phoenix Mercury on Thursday night at Target Center. The Lynx (4-13) took down the Mercury (6-11) in Arizona on Tuesday to snap their five-game losing streak. They went 1-4 without her in the lineup.
The dominant center and two-time Finals MVP is in her 15th and final season after announcing her retirement in the offseason. Fowles was named a co-captain with Breanna Stewart on Wednesday for the 2022 All-Star game in July. It is her eighth appearance in the game, which she appears likely to play in now that she's cleared three weeks out.
She finished fifth in the fans vote, fifth in the media vote and fourth in the player vote to be the third of six frontcourt players selected. The captains will select their teams from the group of starters and reserves, which will be announced next week, during an ESPN special on July 2.
Fowles leads struggling Lynx
Fowles is averaging 16.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks in 12 games. Her 64.1% clip from the field leads the league and she's top in rebounds per game. Her 20 rebounds on June 1 tied the franchise single-game record with Rebekkah Brunson.
Minnesota has struggled to start the season without Napheesa Collier, who gave birth to her daughter last month. Kayla McBride, the team's second-leading scorer, arrived late after overseas commitments and the Lynx have been dealt injury after injury. Fowles' return follows that of forward Natalie Achonwa, who returned against the Mercury for her first game since May 8. Damiris Dantas and Moriah Jefferson have also returned within the last weeks.
The Lynx have reached the playoffs 11 consecutive seasons and won four titles in seven years during that span. Fowles was there for 2015 and 2017 and is the last of the core of those championships.
They remain at the bottom of the standings, 9.5 games back of league-leading Las Vegas Aces and with a lot of work to do to pull into the top-eight for a playoff spot. But they are only three wins behind the No. 8 New York Liberty with the same number of games played as of Thursday afternoon. It's a 36-game season.