Free agency is looming large for Elena Delle Donne.
The Washington Mystics were eliminated from the playoffs Tuesday, bringing their 2023 season to an end. And Delle Donne’s time in Washington could be coming to an end as well. Her four-year contract is up, meaning that the Mystics and Delle Donne have choices to make.
“[Transition] is a word that can be used a little bit,” head coach Eric Thibault said Wednesday. “I think we have to make a decision about what this is going to look like going forward. And it’s not an easy one.”
Delle Donne arrived in Washington in 2017, having been traded to the Mystics from the Chicago Sky. She helped the team to a WNBA championship in 2019 and was named league MVP that year. Since then, though, she has struggled with injuries, missing the 2020 season and playing just three games in 2021. She returned to form in 2022, averaging 17.2 points in 25 games. This season, she averaged 16.7 points in 23 games while also dealing with some nagging injuries.
A seven-time All-Star with two WNBA championships under her belt, Delle Donne previously has expressed her interest in staying in Washington. But on Wednesday, her tune was a bit different.
“I think you always need to take a little bit of time to just kind of reflect and see what your next steps are going to be,” Delle Donne said. “I just want to win. That’s truly what I care about most. It’s been my whole career, but especially coming back from all the back stuff and feeling like I’m really the strongest I’ve ever been. I’m in great shape. I feel like I have a lot more basketball to play, and I want to win.”
While this season wasn’t her best, Delle Donne still feels as though she has a lot left to give.
“I think the most encouraging thing is that she clearly views herself as having a lot of really good basketball left in her,” Thibault said. “And that gives me a lot of confidence that that’s true, quite frankly.
“I don’t think it’s fair necessarily to ask her to carry the load she carried when she was 27, 28, 29. But she can still be a big-time player, there’s no doubt about that.”
Even still, it’s time for both the Mystics and Delle Donne to evaluate how they want to move forward.
“I think that’s the discussion we’re having, and I really can’t give you that answer,” general manager Mike Thibault said. “I would say that anytime you have some of your players getting older, whether she was a free agent or not, we need to make sure that we have other players that we can make focal parts of what we do. It can’t just be one player.”