Right out of the gate of the 2020 season, the Washington Mystics will face a challenging schedule to begin their repeat campaign.
The WNBA announced the team's docket for the shortened 22-game season on Monday, which features two head-to-head matchups with each team in the league and eight nationally televised contests.
Three of the Mystics' five games will be against teams that have true championship aspirations. The team will follow up its season opener (July 25, 5:00 p.m. ET) against the Indiana Fever, with back-to-back WNBA Finals rematches against the Connecticut Sun on July 28 and the Seattle Storm on July 30.
Even though Connecticut is without some key figures from last year's team, they are still a threat after adding DeWanna Bonner in the offseason. Seattle, of course, has two of the best players to ever play in the W in Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird returning.
Less than a week later, the Mystics will go face-to-face with the Las Vegas Aces. In what is beginning to turn into a continuous rivalry between Vegas and DC, the two will surely have that contest circled. However, the two biggest characters, Liz Cambage and Natasha Cloud, both opted-out of the season.
That is why these opening games will be a challenge for Washington. The team is presumably going to be without four of their five starters from last season, assuming Elena Delle Donne decides not to play and forgo her salary.
There are four 'new' players at camp this season including Kiara Leslie (who missed her entire first season due to an injury), Essence Carson, Leilani Mitchell and Alaina Coates.
With training camp also condensed, getting the new players up to speed and ready for a new role will be important. It might take a while before a new, open offense that isn't centered around Delle Donne takes shape. Head coach Mike Thibault says that the team will be able to spread out their offense more and not center around Emma Meesseman or a central piece. Still, that will take time to develop especially with Mitchell being the team's new point guard.
But while the opening couple of games will be a tall task, that means the team comes together true to form later in the year and have a lighter schedule.
"It's hard to assess I mean, you know, you haven't seen anybody else play," head coach Mike Thibault said. "I haven't really worried about the schedule, other than looking at who our first couple games are I think it'll be fun for people to see a national TV game against Seattle in that first week, I don't know if that will be fun for us but we'll see. But you know, I think it just, it's hard to judge other teams when you don't even know who everybody's got right now."
No teams will have back-to-backs in the schedule that runs until Sept. 12.
After Washington's first four contests, they'll have three-off days before a stretch of six games in 11 days. That series of games will likely be a measuring stick of where the team stands. Both Aces contests are in that stretch, along with two games against non-playoff teams from a year ago.
The schedule will bode well for the Mystics to make a mid-to-late half of the season push. It's just a matter of if can they come together early enough that the push puts them in a favorable spot for the playoffs.
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