Your Day in Women’s Basketball, July 14: Delle Donne denied medical exemption

Teams begin to find normalcy, but Delle Donne is still searching for answers

In a perplexing turn of events, the WNBA and a panel of doctors denied a medical exemption to reigning WNBA MVP and champion Elena Delle Donne. It’s a bad look for the WNBA, and worse yet, an impossible predicament for the league to put arguably their most talented player in. Delle Donne believes she is at high-risk as she contracted Lyme disease in 2008.

You want the truth? The Next’s Christine Hopkins said it bluntly on Twitter: “I don’t want to get the pandemic disease” should be a good enough reason for anyone to medically opt-out.

From a strict basketball standpoint, Delle Donne is the difference between title contention and lottery odds, given Washington’s depleted roster. But come on. This is a safety issue through and through.

A team that was on the opposite end of the standings last season, the New York Liberty, also have been dealt the short end of the stick, but are aiming high on a treasure trove of first-round picks and a prayer. It would be shocking if the Liberty trot out a full 12 piece roster this season, missing five(!) players already including sophomore standout Asia Durr.

New York was a big question mark before yesterday’s media day, but the two biggest takeaways were crystal clear. As expected, head coach Walt Hopkins will hand Sabrina Ionescu the keys to the offense. But in a surprise to all, expect Kiah “youngest veteran presence in the league” Stokes to be right beside Ionescu in shotgun.

Down the hall, the Connecticut Sun have the most internal drama of any team, which starts and ends with a hotly contested UNO tournament leaderboard. While the Sun are missing a number of key contributors from last season, the team is in high spirits with the chemistry building one day at a time.

The Los Angeles Sparks, despite early opt-outs, actually managed to arrive at IMG with a full roster, and they’re ready to get to work. Head coach Derek Fisher spoke of strong camaraderie between teammates old and new, and new signee Reshanda Gray echoed his sentiments, telling media that “It’s just great to be somewhere you’re wanted.”

In a roster shake-up, the Atlanta Dream added Erica McCall via hardship exemption, as the squad entered the bubble with only nine players. They can’t even scrimmage a five-on-five yet! Imagine reading that sentence five months ago. With a lack of opportunity in the past, McCall has a chip on her shoulder for Atlanta and could bring an unexpected boost to the roster.

No full team, however, seems more determined than the Chicago Sky, who are championship-or-bust ahead of the most unpredictable season in WNBA history. The Sky, who return most of their roster, will likely have tighter chemistry out of the gate than any other squad and were just a heave away from the semifinals last season. Bettors should look to the Sky as a dark horse this year.

The WNBA finally revealed the mystical 2020 bubble schedule. And folks, on July 25th, it starts off with a scorcher, as the young-but-bitter rivalry between Sue Bird and Sabrina Ionescu launches us into what we can only assume is basketball nirvana. Oh yeah, and 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart will make her return too.

Don’t worry, beef-lovers: Sabrina and Sue have already landed not-so-subtle blows on Twitter.

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