Last week, Washington Mystics coach Mike Thibault said the team was paying Elena Delle Donne her salary and keeping her on the active roster while she rehabs from back surgery. Delle Donne, who has Lyme disease, was not granted a medical exemption from playing the 2020 WNBA season.
The door was left open for Delle Donne to join the Mystics in Bradenton, Florida, to play some time later this season. But Thibault and the Mystics are going about their business in the league’s bubble believing that she will not play this year.
“If I were in your shoes, I would go with the assumption that Elena’s not playing this year. That’s the assumption I have,” Thibault said Sunday.
The coach said that Delle Donne was in a good place in her rehab in March, but then the COVID-19 pandemic put her behind schedule.
Delle Donne played through three herniated discs in her back during the 2019 WNBA Finals and had surgery in the offseason.
“There is no assumption by us that she will play this summer,” Thibault said. “She has a meeting with her surgeon, but basically it’s with our rehab people that the constant communication is with them and with Elena. So we do a daily report on all of our players, and she’s a part of that report.”
In an essay last week, the reigning WNBA MVP expressed disappointment in the decision by the league’s independent medical panel not to grant her an exemption for her Lyme disease. The WNBA granted exemptions for some players with underlying conditions that could worsen COVID-19, and players who received exemptions would be paid their salaries.
If Delle Donne opted out of the season now, she would forego her salary.
The Mystics are continuing to pay Delle Donne, but she might not join the team for any part the 22-game pandemic-shortened season.
• Adam Zielonka can be reached at email@example.com.
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