Mystics to bring back 2019 champions Kristi Toliver, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough

Toliver to return to Mystics, Walker-Kimbrough re-signs originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington


Like how Kitty and Red Forman are returning for a revival of ‘That ’70s Show,’ Kristi Toliver and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough are two returning members of the cast from the Mystics 2019 championship-winning season.

Toliver will return to D.C. after spending the last three years in Los Angeles and Walker-Kimbrough re-signed on a two-year contract, reportedly guaranteed.

The gang is (almost) all back together. Those two join Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen who all led Washington to their lone title four seasons ago.

That brings the total number of players from the 2019 team to this year’s to six and it could be seven if Tianna Hawkins returns on a training camp contract. Last year they had six members from that team. In 2021, there were no more than five at any given time. In 2020, there were only five returners who played.

Is this the comic-book reunion that could tip the scales back in Washington’s favor? It certainly will bring back the nostalgia from that team.

Toliver’s quest back into the nation’s capital comes after her return to the Sparks didn’t go quite as planned. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic led her to skip the season and her play wasn’t quite the same the next two years. There was drama behind the scenes in L.A. with a coaching change and a failed Liz Cambage experiment, as well as an eye and calf injury that all led to some of the worst seasons of Toliver’s career.

Still, she brings a veteran presence to a relatively young team now that Alysha Clark is no longer on the roster. At 36, Toliver is currently the oldest player under contract. She is also the only player on the roster who has won multiple WNBA titles.

Washington is hoping the guard can return to her 2019 form where she was an All-Star, averaging 13.0 points, 6.0 assists and shooting 36.0% from three. She and Cloud piloted a dynamic backcourt, taking turns as the true point guard, guiding the Mystics to arguably the best offense in WNBA history.

Even if she doesn’t rise back to that level of play, Toliver will be a notable contributor off the bench that can run an offense and hit threes in an effective manner.

Toliver is currently an assistant coach on the Dallas Mavericks, she will report to D.C. once Dallas’ NBA season is complete. It will also give the Mystics some roster and cap flexibility until she officially signs.

Walker-Kimbrough is back after being with the team for the past year and a half. Her reported guaranteed contract will be the first of her six-year professional career. The 2021 deal was signed midseason at a pro-rated contract and last season was on a minimum deal.

The team made a push for Walker-Kimbrough in the league’s annual Sixth Player of the Year Award a year ago when she had the sixth-most minutes on the team. She played in 35 of the 36 games, making three starts. She averages 6.0 points throughout her career, shooting 42.3% from the field and 34.5% from deep. Her 34.7% 3-point mark in 2022 was the fourth-best among the Mystics regulars.

As teams – notably the New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces – are accumulating talent and developing super teams, Washington is returning the familiar. But if that 2019 success can be replicated, it might not matter who is on the opposition.

Oh, and as a reminder, Emma Meesseman is still an unsigned free agent (though the Mystics are out of space for guaranteed contracts). I hear Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are making cameos in ‘That ’90s Show’ too.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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