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Bringing everyone back from a championship team is difficult, but the Mystics could defy the odds

Bringing everyone back from a championship team is difficult, but the Mystics could defy the odds

All good things must come to an end. 

Salary caps ensure that adage rings true for championship teams. Each year title-winning teams are forced to part ways with the very players that put them on top of the sports world. 

The Washington Nationals are a team that quickly faced that reality this year. On the day of their World Series championship parade, they were forced to make several contract decisions on stars that had just won them their first pennant. Less than a week after winning it all, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon were free agents and available for any team to sign.  

No title-touting team is immune.  But just as tenacious the Washington Mystics were on their warpath to a WNBA championship, so too is their ability to bring everyone for another crack at the title in 2020. 

There is the space for the Mystics to bring back each member of their championship team.

Last season Washington had one of the deepest teams in the WNBA. So deep that Emma Meesseman, the WNBA Finals MVP, primarily came off the bench when the squad was fully healthy. Depth extended past Meesseman too. Several of the team’s back-up players could easily be starters elsewhere in the league.

There were 12 players on the championship roster, seven are already under contract to return: Natasha Cloud, LaToya Sanders, Ariel Atkins, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Myisha Hines-Allen and Kiara Leslie. 

Assuming the salary cap goes up the same amount it did from 2018 to 2019, the cap will be roughly $1,014,900 in 2020. However, the WNBA and the players’ association are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. A new deal could completely flip the cap figures – and maximum contracts – as one of the bigger issues discussed is player pay. The rest of this post could be a moot point. 

But going off the $1,014,900 figure and the contract amounts on Spotrac.com combined with Tianna Hawkins’ extension, Washington has roughly $502,072 of their 2020 cap space remaining. Educated guesses would assume that there could be even more room to work with as the CBA gets developed. Bigger player salaries would mean bigger salary caps. Only four or five spots are remaining as rosters are required to have a minimum of 11 players, a maximum of 12.

Five members of the 2019 squad are set to enter free agency. This includes Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver and Meesseman. All three more than deserving of max contracts. 

Keep in mind that the WNBA’s free agency is less robust than the other major sports leagues in the country. Partly this is due to the max contract and salary cap system in place. In the NBA, at most teams could fit four maximum contract players – there are also supermax contracts that would fit less. Eight maximum contract players could fit on a WNBA roster to slide under the cap.

Of the three (Delle Donne, Toliver, Meesseman) it is difficult to imagine any of them playing anywhere else in the league.

Delle Donne finally won her elusive championship this year. She came to the Mystics from the Chicago Sky back in 2017 to be close to her family in Delaware. During the WNBA Finals this season she still stressed the importance of her proximity to her family. There is no reason to suggest that will change this offseason.

Toliver is an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards. Both basketball teams are owned under the same company, Monumental Sports and Entertainment. She could make the full jump into the coaching ranks after this season if she chose, but this season she displayed that there is a lot in her tank. 

Meesseman took a year off in 2018 and looks better than ever. Washington is the only WNBA franchise she has ever played for.

A combination of the three returning is not guaranteed but space is there. Three max contracts, at the estimated at $119,500 by the previous CBA, fit the salary constraints. 

That even leaves $143,572 for the final one to two spots on the roster. A more than capable figure to account for the remaining members of the 2019 championship team in Aerial Powers and Kim Mestdagh. 

Head coach Mike Thibault, who is also the general manager, constructed the roster brilliantly to bring together the first championship for the franchise. Basically, everyone stayed from the runner-up team in 2018. Roster constraints won’t be the issue. Rather, convincing everyone to ‘Run it back’ for a second time will be the question. 

Throughout the 2019 season, the Mystics defied all standards set by previous WNBA teams. They have a chance to defy another standard set by championship teams this offseason. 


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Isaiah Thomas expected to miss several more games due to calf injury

Isaiah Thomas expected to miss several more games due to calf injury

WASHINGTON -- Isaiah Thomas has missed the Wizards' last two games with a left calf strain and it sounds like he will be out at least a little while longer.

The Wizards guard caught up with NBC Sports Washington at his holiday toy giveaway at the Boys and Girls Club in Northwest D.C. on Saturday and gave an update on how he's feeling.

"I'm good," he said. "I think I will be out a few more games and then be able to come back."

Thomas nearly played on Thursday in the Wizards' home win over the Sixers, according to head coach Scott Brooks. He pleaded with the coaching staff to play, but was advised not to as a precaution.

Thomas categorized the injury in a similar way, that the team is just playing it safe.

"I always feel like I can play, but the medical staff wants to be cautious about it, knowing it's a long season. There's a bigger picture and I'm just listening to whatever they've got to say," he said.

Thomas, 30, is enjoying a career renaissance of sorts with the Wizards. He is averaging 12.6 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 41 percent from three on 4.9 attempts per game.

With Thomas out, the Wizards have gone 1-1 with Ish Smith in his place in the starting lineup.


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Why Isaiah Thomas brings his kids to help him at charity events

Why Isaiah Thomas brings his kids to help him at charity events

WASHINGTON -- Isaiah Thomas likes to bring his sons with him just about wherever he goes. They walk with him into the Wizards' locker room, they shoot around on the court at Capital One Arena; he's even brought them to the podium for postgame interviews.

On Saturday, Thomas brought one of his sons to the Boys and Girls Club on 8th St. in Northwest Washington and for a specific reason. Thomas wanted him to help give back.

Just as Thomas was handing out toys to underprivileged youth, so was his son. The contrast was not lost on Thomas, who knows his son is well off as the kid of a millionaire NBA player. Not everyone is as fortunate.

"When I can do these types of things, I always want my kids to be around it," Thomas told NBC Sports Washington. 

"To be able to give back and see how blessed we are and how blessed he is and how we can put smiles on peoples' faces, especially around the holidays; it's definitely a point of emphasis to do that and bring my boys around to see it."

Thomas said his father instilled the same lessons in him when he was growing up in Washington state. Every Saturday morning at 6 a.m., his dad would take him to a shelter to serve breakfast to the homeless.

"That was something I was born into doing," Thomas said.

Thomas grew up going to the Boys and Girls Club himself and has partnered with them and World Vision throughout his NBA career to give back. Their efforts nationally have allowed him to continue the relationship no matter which team he has played for.

"Isaiah Thomas has been an amazing partner for World Vision," aid worker Brian Duss said. "Isaiah wasn't even in D.C. four days before he partnered with us at a school in [Southeast] to give away 400 backpacks filled with school supplies."

Before handing out toys and taking pictures with the children, Thomas addressed the crowd with a microphone. He spoke of his experience going to the Boys and Girls Club as a kid and explained the impact he hopes to make in the D.C. community.

"Whatever you need from me, I'm always here for you," he said. "I hope everyone has a happy holidays."