Delle Donne back at Team USA after 'greatest offseason ever'

Elena Delle Donne

The rest of the WNBA better be prepared. Elena Delle Donne just said she is coming off "the greatest offseason" of her career.

No longer is she rehabbing nor easing her back toward playing at full health. The two-time WNBA MVP is building up strength, hitting PRs in the gym and gearing up for another run at a championship in 2023. 

Her comments came at USA Basketball's initial camp in preparation for the 2024 Paris Olympics. It was just Delle Donne's second stint with the team since she had multiple back procedures in the 2019-20 WNBA offseason. Last year she joined her American teammates while they practiced at the Mystics' D.C. practice facility in January 2022. She was limited in her involvement then, participating in the first half of practices before moving to shooting-only drills. Following the WNBA season, Delle Donne opted out of the August 2022 camp in the lead-up to the FIBA World Cup, even after receiving an invite. 

This time, though, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist is back without restriction.

"I'm full go, no hesitation. I was setting some big screens today on the guys," Delle Donne said in a Zoom press conference. 

It would be one thing if the "greatest offseason" comment came after an ordinary offseason for one of the best players in the league. But this was an offseason where Delle Donne said she was no longer worried about progressing in her recovery. She was recovered. It's now a matter of her getting back to training workouts and improving her game.


"To be able to now train and not be rehabbing is so refreshing," Delle Donne said. "It had been many offseasons of rehabbing, surgeries or whatever that may be. So to be lifting now, lifting far more weight than I have ever lifted in my life, and to be on this plan to get me ready and as strong as possible for the season, I feel really good about it."

Don't think that's a big deal? Look at her numbers from last season.

She was one of five players to average 17+ points, 6+ rebounds and 2+ assists per game. Every player in that group made an All-WNBA team, except Delle Donne. Her player efficiency rating (25.4) was third-best in the league. Her win-share (4.4) was 10th. 

All of that came as she attempted to complete her first full regular season since 2019. She played 25 of the possible 36 games, leading the team to an 18-7 record which would be tied with the champion Las Vegas Aces for the highest winning percentage (.720) when stretched out to a full season.

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Now, with eight months of re-focusing on her abilities with her new and improved back, that will be a high ceiling she could reach this year.

"It's no longer 'am I going to be healthy?' It's 'how can I be the best Elena I can possibly be on court.' That's where the focus is now which is a very big relief," Delle Donne said. 

Getting back to playing with Team USA is one of the goals that she set out to achieve during her revival. Missing out on the 2020 Toyko Olympics - which took place in 2021 - was hard on her. She "struggled" to watch the games because of how hard it was for her to not be on the team.

If she makes the roster for Paris, she can check that goal off her list. As for her WNBA goals?

"(It's the same goal it always is; win a championship," Delle Donne said.