With the decision, Delle Donne will no longer be in jeopardy of losing her 2020 salary after an independent group of doctors — which was appointed by the league and players’ union — denied her request to medically opt out of the season.
Delle Donne, who wanted to skip the season due to medical concerns, has Lyme disease and said her personal physician informed her that she is “at risk for contracting and having complications from COVID-19.”
Delle Donne is still recovering from off-season back surgery and won’t be ready to return at the start of the season even if she opted to do so. Her surgery was for three herniated disks that she dealt with last season while guiding the Mystics to the WNBA title.
“The fact of the matter is the Mystics organization will never put Elena’s — or any other of our players’ — health and well-being in jeopardy at any time,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault told reporters Wednesday. “As in the past, with her Lyme disease history and her on-court injuries, all decisions about her ability to play will be made jointly with Elena.
“She is part of our roster, she is being paid, and is continuing to rehab from her off-season back surgery. If at some point, later in the season, we are all comfortable enough with both her physical progress and the safety of joining the team in Florida, then we will make those arrangements.
“If we don’t feel that, then she will continue to do her workouts in D.C. and get herself ready for the following season. Her long-term care and health as a major foundation piece of the Mystics will always take precedence.”
Delle Donne’s agent, Erin Kane, told ESPN that two major concerns still exist, with the first being whether the Mystics would require the six-time All-Star to rehab at the team’s training facility in Washington, D.C., instead of at her home. The second is the risk associated with a possible return to the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Fla.
“That’s still a risk she’s not sure she’s willing to take,” Kane said. “And for her, the decision has never been about her back. It’s about her Lyme disease, and what’s safe.”
Kane said Delle Donne is appreciative that Thibault and Ted Leonsis — the CEO of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Mystics — are attempting to do the right thing.
“She really appreciates their support and that they’re trying to find a happy medium, a way to kind of resolve this situation,” Kane said. “We’re trying to figure out with the team what the parameters are because Elena doesn’t want to go to the facility full-stop, or work out somewhere else indoors where there’s someone else around.
“Because she feels like that’s risky. None of that has been finalized. Elena is trying to mentally sort through this, and all of it is happening in pretty short order.”
Players who have a medical reason or are deemed to be high risk by the independent panel of doctors will receive their full salaries if they choose to skip the season. Players who opt out after the panel doesn’t grant them a waiver won’t receive their salary.
Lyme disease isn’t on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of conditions that could put someone at more risk for severe illness from the coronavirus.
Delle Donne, 30, averaged 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season. The Mystics open their season against the Indiana Fever on July 25 in Bradenton.
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