A big absence out of the game for the Mystics
On the first day of the 2019 WNBA season, the mood was not entirely celebratory in Washington, DC. High Post Hoops’ Lindsay Gibbs reported that Mystics star Elena Delle Donne would not travel with the team for Saturday’s game at the Connecticut Sun. Delle Donne is dealing with a jammed left knee, the same one that hobbled her in last season’s WNBA playoffs. According to Gibbs, she rehabbed the knee for most of the offseason, finally feeling 100 percent healthy a few weeks ago before experiencing more swelling and soreness during training camp.
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Against the Sun, the Mystics will likely start forward Emma Meesseman in place of Delle Donne and alongside Kristi Toliver, Natasha Cloud, Ariel Atkins, and Latoya Sanders. While Delle Donne’s absence creates a huge void—she averaged over 20 points per game last season and was the third-most efficient player in the league—Meesseman is an excellent option and will likely be a starter herself by the end of the season. In the Mystics’ first preseason game against Minnesota on May 10, Meesseman started in place of Delle Donne and tallied 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks in just 22 minutes while shooting 61.5% from the floor. In the second game against Atlanta, with Delle Donne in the starting lineup, Meesseman came off the bench to record eight points in 16 minutes. With Meesseman on the floor, the Mystics outscored Atlanta by 12 points; that was the second-highest plus-minus on the team behind forward Tianna Hawkins (+16).
Speaking of Hawkins, she could be similarly important against the Sun, especially if the Mystics elect to play three forwards at times versus the Sun’s strong frontcourt. Hawkins’ three-point shooting (36% last season) makes her a good option in that lineup, and she and fellow reserve Myisha Hines-Allen will also be counted on to play physical defense against Sun stars Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas.
Delle Donne’s injury makes her the sixth All-WNBA honoree from a season ago who will not play in the season’s opening weekend, joining Breanna Stewart (Seattle), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix), Candace Parker (Los Angeles), Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas), and Maya Moore (Minnesota). Despite those notable absences, there are still tons of players worth watching this weekend—including a fascinating matchup between high-scoring guards Kristi Toliver and Jasmine Thomas in the Mystics-Sun game.
Delle Donne’s availability for the Mystics’ second game, their home opener against Atlanta on June 1, is unknown and will likely be determined late next week.
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