NEW YORK (AP) — Elena Delle Donne is back, although she is not at 100 percent yet.
When they visit the New York Liberty, Washington’s star will go back into the Mystics lineup Friday night. She has been sidelined since the beginning of August with a torn ligament in her left thumb. The Mystics’ leading scorer missed six games and Washington went 3-3.
“It’s only 3 months post-op, so clearly I don’t know whether it will be 100% this season,” she told The Associated Press after a shoot-around on Friday. “It’s my left hand, so they have been able to utilize different tape jobs and a small amount of casting. I will only give it a roster. I’m excited to return.”
She had surgery on her hand days after the injury occurred against Atlanta on July 30.
“I was able to do lots of cardio,” she explained. “Do things with my right hand. Nothing’s like playing. It’s fantastic to return and get into game shape and get into the flow of things.”
Delle Donne, who’s averaging 18.8 points, also missed time with a sprained ankle in July. When she had been playing Chicago, she had surgery on her right hands.
“Last year I was not able to get back. It is not my shooting hand, therefore it makes a big difference,” Delle Donne said. “It is the same specific injury. This one tore right down the middle off the bone. Surgery, rehab that is same, definitely a painful thing. Glad to have on the court and get a few matches under my belt.”
The Mystics (17-12) are a half-game behind New York for the fourth seed at the WNBA playoffs. The teams have split the two meetings this season and the winner of Friday’s game will have the tiebreaker.
“This is actually the first time we’ve played with them all year with both Elena and Emma (Meesseman) on the courtroom at precisely the identical time,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said.
The Mystics haven’t played since last Sunday, so Delle Donne has had a week of training to get prepared.
“Her wind is very good, she has been able to run and do all that stuff, she has done live contact all week,” Thibault added. “It’s sore but not ruined.”
Earning the fourth seed provides that group a bye into the next round of the playoffs.
“We have got one (heck) of a schedule ahead of us. It’s a fantastic thing,” Delle Donne said. “It will prepare us for the grind of the playoffs. We don’t have some freebie games coming up, so it is going to help get us prepared for the playoffs.”
The Mystics have clinched a playoff berth.
“Obviously it’s not do or die. We’re in, so that is exciting we get to live the following day after the regular season,” Delle Donne said. “It is very important to finish this the ideal way.”