NEW YORK (AP) — Elena Delle Donne and Chiney Ogwumike will have a major impact on the Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks playoff chances now that they’re back on the basketball court.
The two finally returned after long layoffs due to injuries.
Delle Donne missed nearly two years with a back injury and COVID-19 precautions. The Washington Mystics star played in her first game in 682 days this past Sunday. The former MVP last played in the decisive Game 5 of the WNBA Finals in 2019 that gave the Mystics their first championship.
“It was an amazing day just to be out there and competing with my teammates. It’s been quite a whirlwind,” said Delle Donne, who scored 16 points in her return. “You know I’m running out and I was like, a little bit emotional. I was like, I can’t add crying right now (because) I’m nervous. I certainly felt it welling up in my eyes for a second.”
Delle Donne said that her back and body felt good and that she will do treatment and see how she feels for the rest of the week. The 31-year-old forward said the most difficult part was “being so unsure if the nerve pain is going to take over again, so that’s the concern.”
The Mystics weren’t the only team to finally get healthy this week. Los Angeles welcomed back Ogwumike, who had been sidelined with a knee issue since May 28. She returned against New York on Sunday.
“When I got the green light, I was like, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ I think that’s the best feeling, when something’s gone, you miss it more. I’ve missed it a lot,” she said.
Ogwumike expects to be on a minutes limit for a few games.
“My knee felt really great out there,” she said. “My teammates give me so much confidence. They know my journey has been a long journey. But this is a special group, and to be out there with my sis again and to do some of the things we’ve always talked about … today was a great day.”
This week’s WNBA poll:
1 Las Vegas (17-6): The Aces play three games on the road this week with huge contest against Connecticut followed by a trip to Atlanta and Indiana.
2. Seattle (18-7): The Storm head home after finishing off long five-game road trip to start the second half of the season. Had a stop at the White House on Monday to celebrate the team’s 2020 championship.
3. Connecticut (17-6): Jonquel Jones is leading the Sun’s playoff push and is one of the front-runners for the league’s MVP award. She’s averaging a career-best 20.6 points this season.
4. Minnesota (14-9): A favorable schedule has the Lynx home for six of their next seven games. Minnesota is 10-3 over its last 13 games with 10 of those games being played on the road. The Lynx also welcomed back Aerial Powers this past weekend after she missed two months while recovering from a torn UCL in her right thumb.
5. Phoenix (13-10): Five of the Mercury’s next six games are on the road, but none of their opponents have a winning record.
6. Chicago (11-12): Candace Parker re-injured her left ankle last week and her health will have an impact on where the team finishes in the standings.
7. Los Angeles (10-13): The Sparks are one of the hottest teams coming out of the Olympic break with four victories since play resumed. It’s no coincidence that the main reason is they are healthy now and playing stellar defense. Los Angeles is holding its opponents to just over 74 points a game in the four wins.
8. New York (11-14): The Liberty will be without Sami Whitcomb for the next two weeks as she recovers from a left ankle sprain. Whitcomb has been one of the most consistent players for New York this season, averaging 12.8 points while shooting 44% from behind the 3-point arc. She’s also been averaging 5.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
9. Washington (8-14): While the Mystics welcomed Delle Donne back, the team will be missing Olympic gold-medalist Tina Charles because of a strained left gluteal.
10. Dallas (10-13): The Wings dropped five of their last six games to fall behind in the playoff chase, but Dallas has a friendly schedule that could help the team reach the postseason.
11t. Atlanta (6-17): The Dream have lost eight consecutive games. Their last win was June 29. With Cheyenne Parker missing the rest of the season because of pregnancy, Atlanta brought back guard Blake Dietrick for the remainder of the year.
11t. Indiana (5-18): The Fever have a short roster right now because of injuries and players taking personal leave. Still, the team has been playing much better recently with four victories in its past six games.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Brittney Griner of Phoenix was voted as the Player of the Week after averaging 20,5 points 10.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists in the Mercury’s three wins. Other players receiving votes included Jonquel Jones and DeWanna Bonner of Connecticut and Nneka Ogwumike of Los Angeles.
GAME OF THE WEEK:
Aces at Sun, Tuesday. The top spot in the league will be on the line when Las Vegas visits Connecticut. It’s the last meeting in the regular season between the two teams and the Sun have already clinched the season series winning the first two meetings.
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