Elena Delle Donne has yet to play professional basketball since the Mystics' 2019 championship, but her return to the hardwood could be on the horizon.
The Mystics are expecting to progress Delle Donne's recovery process during the WNBA's break for the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Washington has an ideal period of time to integrate the two-time MVP in with a majority of the roster with a full month off mid-season.
The first week every player has off. Then individual work and practices will begin in the subsequent weeks.
"When we start practicing again the intent is to try to integrate her into a fair amount of the practices," head coach Mike Thibault said Saturday.
"Elena has been feeling better. We'll see how it translates once she starts getting physical contact, but that's still a few weeks off."
Delle Donne has been regulated all season to individual work during practices. She's is recovering from her second back procedure since the 2019 WNBA Finals, both stemming from her herniated discs.
Much of the ramp-up process for the 31-year-old has just been getting comfortable with her new back on the court. At training camp, she said she needed to focus on how to properly move so she does not put herself in a position to get hurt. Two and a half months later and she has yet to see five-on-five drills and contact.
Washington has been cautious bringing back their superstar player. Thibault has stressed that he wants everyone available for the playoffs and that there's no need to rush Delle Donne back early. It's likely that they'll remain cautious as she works into five-on-five drills. But if they want her to get some game reps before the postseason, the team has about a month to get her action.
Once back, she'll be a welcomed addition to the roster. MVP candidate Tina Charles has been putting on a show on a nightly basis and Ariel Atkins is posting All-WNBA numbers. Still, while battling a multitude of injuries, the team entered the break at an 8-10 record, just clinging to a playoff spot.
Having a second MVP on the roster, even if in a limited capacity, would be a great boost while gearing up for a playoff run.