For the first time since before the Washington Mystics won the 2019 WNBA Finals, two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne is back in team training.
Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said Monday that Delle Donne was training five-on-five, a major development after two back surgeries kept the six-time All-Star from playing for two years. There is no date for his return and it will be a weekend decision, Thibault said.
The Mystics will enter the second half of the season on the road with a first stop in Las Vegas to face the Aces on Sunday.
Delle Donne tries to see if she can handle the load
Delle Donne called the return a “difficult process” but “mentally incredible” to be back with his teammates.
“Really, it’s still day to day,” Delle Donne told reporters. “Am I doing more and more each day? Yes. Some days do I do the same as the day before to see how I can handle this kind of load? Yes.
Upon her return, she said that she will be subject to a minute / charge restriction as was reported at the start of the 2021 season. She wants to be 5v5 consistently for a few days in a row and feel good about them. days before she was ready, she said.
Her last time with the team won the 2019 WNBA title, which she did with a herniated disc in her back. She underwent surgery in January 2020 and would have been on track to perform in 2020 until COVID-19 creates a bubble scenario.
Delle Donne was denied a medical exemption, which she requested due to Lyme disease, and withdrew due to the pandemic. She had a second back operation in December of that year and the return has been slower than initially expected.
Delle Donne credits Russell Westbrook in return
Delle Donne, who turns 32 next month, thanked his family – including his wife, his mother who had back surgery and her dogs – for their support over the past two years. Part of that supporting team was Russell Westbrook, who spent the 2020-21 NBA season with the Washington Wizards.
“There were days when Russ would come up – way too early on a game day even – and he would come and bounce for me as I’m barefoot and pulling 2 feet close to the rim,” Delle Donne said. “The days when I didn’t want to have it or [was] upset and I just wanted to be in my feelings, there were times like this where he would show up and take me out of the funk and say, “I get it. I can continue to do this. ‘”
She said there were days when her goal was just to be able to go to dinner with his wife, Amanda, and not feel pain after sitting for 10 minutes. Basketball was secondary and she said there were times she feared she would never come back to the court.
“[Westbrook] believe in me. These people believe in me. My teammates believe in me. I can do it, “she said.” So there were days, yes, I didn’t believe in myself, but others got me through this. It was quite a trip but I met amazing people around this place who helped me a lot. ”
This will be the first time Delle Donne has played with several of his teammates as there has been turnover since this team won the title in 2019. The Mystics traded for Tina Charles, who dominates the paint this year, ahead of the draft. WNBA 2020. And the Mystics may soon add Emma Meesseman. The MVP of the 2019 final was absent with his Belgian national team before the Olympics.
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