Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore announced Tuesday in The Players' Tribune that she will not play in 2019, instead intending to focus on her family and ministry pursuits.
Several star players have sat out WNBA seasons for various reasons over the years, including to rest, for pregnancy, to fulfill overseas national team commitments, to have surgery and recover, or sometimes a combination of those factors. In Moore's case, it's to follow another passion.
Moore, who turns 30 in June, has spoken about her religious faith over the years, along with her interest in social justice.
We don't know yet what happens for Moore after 2019. Her agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said Moore doesn't plan to publicly address that topic in the near future. Moore has, however, signed a new contract with the Lynx, so we can assume she'll return at some point.
So while well-wishes keep pouring in on social media for Moore -- she is universally respected -- the big question in terms of basketball is how the Lynx will move forward. Minnesota has been the WNBA's primary storyline, in one way or another, for the past eight seasons, during which the Lynx won four titles and came within seconds of a fifth.
In 2011, when Moore was the No. 1 overall draft pick out of UConn, the focus was on how good the Lynx were about to be. Then it was on how great they were. Then on how long they could stay on top. Then, last year, on whether this window of excellence was closing.
The Lynx finished 18-16 overall in 2018, and as the No. 7 seed lost to No. 6 Los Angeles in the single-elimination first round of the playoffs. Point guard Lindsay Whalen already had announced it was her final season, as she moved on to coach her alma mater, Minnesota, in women's college basketball.
Now Moore is also gone, at least for 2019. Center Sylvia Fowles, 33, and guard Seimone Augustus, who will be 34 in April, are returning. Augustus -- the longest-tenured Lynx player, entering her 14th season -- just signed a multiyear deal on Saturday. Forward Rebekkah Brunson, who turned 37 in December, might return; there are some questions about the lingering effects from a concussion she suffered late last season.
Guards Danielle Robinson, Tanisha Wright and Alexis Jones, and post players Cecilia Zandalasini and Temi Fagbenle are expected back.
Restricted free-agent forward Damiris Dantas has signed an offer sheet with the Lynx, but the Atlanta Dream have until Feb. 8 to match that and retain her. Minnesota already had signed free agent Karima Christmas-Kelly, whose eighth season in the league last year was cut short to six games because of a knee injury.
Minnesota's cupboard isn't bare, but the Lynx are not the same. They can't be, not without a perennial MVP candidate like Moore. And not in the first year of adjusting to Whalen not being there. She has been at the helm on the floor since being traded to the Lynx before the 2010 season.
Minnesota has the No. 6 pick in the 2019 WNBA draft, plus three selections -- Nos. 16, 18, 20 -- in the second round, and one -- No. 30 -- in the third. If draft-eligible juniors such as Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu, Notre Dame's Jackie Young and West Virginia's Tynice Martin declare for the draft, that makes the field that much stronger; we predicted Young as Minnesota's No. 6 selection in espnW's mock draft last week.
But even if those juniors stay in college, the Lynx will get a good player with the sixth selection, and they also could get quality depth from later picks. There's no making up entirely for Moore, though, no matter whom they get.
It has been a while since Minnesota entered a season with more questions than answers, and that consistent excellence is a tribute to the organization, players and staff who created the Lynx dynasty.
Facing a new challenge now could end up being a blessing in disguise for the Lynx. How they respond and what they learn about themselves this season is key for future challenges they were going to confront at some point.