For Elena Delle Donne, 2022 looks a lot better than 2021

Washington – at the Washington Mystics forward / goalkeeper Elena Delle Donne He went to throw the ball at training on Saturday and was met with a call from a defender, and it was clear there was no apparent concern from the assembled players and staff. The only obvious reaction was from the observation point Natasha Cloudwho reprimanded the defending team for committing a foul on her and the Daily Dawn team on several properties.

Delle Donne participated in all of Saturday’s training, which is the first time she’s done so in a training camp when she returns from back injury She went on to the 2019 WNBA Finals, and she had two surgeries in 2020 to repair three herniated discs, and she’s also struggling stenosis, a condition in which spaces within the spine narrow. This can put pressure on the nerves in the spine and lead to pain, tingling and numbness. Dele Dunn has played only three games in the past two seasons combined, but she is optimistic that she will be able to play most of the 2022 season.

“[It] “It feels really good today,” said Dele Donne. next one After Saturday practice. “It’s the most I’ve done so far, getting into some five-on-five, so it’s fun to start playing some basketball…just try to go back to it, make some readings and figure things out.”

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Dele Don played four on four and five on five on the field on Saturday, against both teammates Megan Gustafson And the players are practicing males. There were no rules in place to limit contact with my replacement Don, according to Mystics coach and general manager Mike Thibault. She set several screens in and out quickly, scurrying off to the 3-point line or repositioning herself to recount. Defensively, I closed in hard and jumped to compete in a 3-point shot.

Perhaps most impressively, she took on a one-man coaching player for one of the three-point streak, drove into the lane, stopped, turned, pivoted again, and hit the ball. Between possessions, she did not have to stop and consult with a coach; Instead, she can focus on the finer points of basketball, like talking with assistant coach Eric Thibault about defending the gap or listening to Mike Thibault explain the choices of a broken offensive group.

“She looks good” forward Misha Heinz Allen Tell next one. “I’m happy to see her in the gym, first of all….She’s like a breath of fresh air. And then she gets into the court, being able to go with her and play with her, she makes a lot of things easier…So I’m just happy When she comes back, she will be able to play.”

Thibow said on April 18 that the Mystics coaching staff along with Michael Davis, director of physical therapy and performance for the Washington Wizards, have a “very, very specific plan” set for Delle Donne to return to play. Setbacks in training camp so far and are expected to play in show games at home on April 27 and in New York on April 30. The train trip to New York is, after all, a trip.)

Delle Donne said she’s in good shape whenever she’s allowed to play, but she’s planning to play four against four and maybe five against five with two players for a Sunday practice run to simulate running in an exhibition game.

If all goes well, Delle Donne may be ready to play when the season ends on May 6, but she will likely miss some matches this season even in the best-case scenario. You might stay home when the travel schedule is particularly stressful or sit down for part of a playful week for precautionary reasons.

Elena Delle Donne (right) chats with ESPN’s Holly Rowe after her first appearance of the season against the Seattle Storm at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, DC, on August 22, 2021. (Image Source: Domenic Allegra)

Admittedly, we’ve heard some of that optimism before, right down to the fact that Delle Donne uses the same model to build up to 100% she tried last season. At Mestix Media Day 2021, the Daily Dawn speak happily On how she has reworked her biomechanics so that running, walking and jumping take the pressure off her back, she said she hopes to be ready for the start of the season. (Teppo later retracted the second statement.)

While that, her first season Delayed until August 22, although it He was excited again About her progress in early August, she said closed Only three matches later when her nerve pain resurfaced. This was an issue after her first surgery, so it was a bright red flag for the medical team.

Dele Donne was beaming on the media Monday, too, speaking right before her first practice of the season about what she called “the toughest two years of my career.” She told reporters how she’s strengthened her legs to better support her back and upper body, can now sit in a chair for interviews without pain, and understands her movements and potential advantages on the court better than she did before her injury.

But on Saturday, after a week of practice, the Daily Don gave more details of how 2022 would be different from 2021. “Oh, my God, the difference,” she said. “last year [in camp]I’ve never been to the stadium with the team. I was in individual training and felt like I could never progress. …I was going to work in court one day and it would take four days of therapy to get me back to do the same. Where now… I’m progressing faster and better. “

Instead of spending hours at the Mystics facility getting ready and recovering from practice, only to go home and spend more time in rehab, Delle Donne now does most of her work before training and can enjoy her spare time. She can walk her dogs again without pain. And on Friday, she and her wife Amanda had dinner in a restaurant, which was not possible when she had a pain in her back. won’t let her to sit on a chair.

“[I was] I don’t think about my back, she said, and I don’t get attached to things — like, it was a normal night. “…I am able to have a little normalcy.”

Thibault also sees big improvements from struggling Delle Donne for 2021. Crucially, he said, the “shooting pains in her legs” that plagued her last year haven’t happened in months. “That part is gone,” he said, “so she’s not in any daily pain” next one. “There are days when it is sore or tired, but there is no pain. That is a big difference.”

Dili Dunn has also wielded a secret weapon over the past year in Forward Presence and Friendship Alisha Clarkwho recovers from major foot surgery That cost the entire 2021 season.

“I actually told AC that day, I was like, ‘I didn’t know how much I needed you in my life. Now that you’re here, we’re forever,” Daily Dawn said on a media day. “We’re like peanut butter and jelly; it’s just the perfect piece I need…during this season and what we’ve been through big surgeries and trying to figure out our bodies and having days when we’re feeling down or days when things are going well. But having each other to support Each other and knowing we’re going through the same thing was phenomenal.”

On Friday, Delle Donne and Clark — the 2019 WNBA MVP and a two-time All-Defensive pick — backed each other’s recovery process by playing one-on-one at 75% speed. “I was so scared today,” Clark chirp After that, “But I feel very proud of my feet. They did better than I expected.”

Delle Donne said on Saturday that playing with Clark solo was a “little learning experience we had together.” For her own development, Delle Donne wanted to be accurate in her attacking angles and make sure she started her moves “from the ground up”. I also tried to help Clarke by attacking in different ways and seeing Clarke’s reaction.

“[It’s] Like, OK, I’m going to test this out now, without telling her,” said Dele Donne, “and then after we do that, it’s like, ‘Okay, close it up a little differently than that’ or ‘Take maybe this angle. ‘I tried to take that angle and it cut me off. That was great.’

Clarke also took part in parts of Saturday’s training, including four against four, but she’s a bit behind the Daily Dawn schedule and isn’t expected to play until the Mystics’ final exhibition game in New York.

“It will be very interesting to play with it [Alysha], just because everyone in the league knows exactly what she’s capable of,” Heinz Allen said. “…She’s the best defensive player of the year — like, she should have won her so many times already. But just having her on the field to defend and then attack as well, that will make us better.”

Delle Donne expects to play more than one person with Clark throughout the season when they are not fully involved in practice. And she knows those fights — and the occasional missed game or drill — are essential as she tries to regain her peak performance and lead the Mystics to the championship.

“I am a competitor. I want to play every single game,” she said on a media day. “I want to play as many minutes as possible. But [I have] The people in my corner who can help put together the best season possible for me to be the best I can be at the right time and the rest of the team peaking at the right time… I wouldn’t have gone through what I’ve been through in the last two years if I hadn’t come out here to compete for a championship.”