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Elena Delle Donne returns to Mystics healthy and with ‘newfound joy’

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Elena Delle Donne struggled with injuries for the past two WNBA seasons, but the 2019 MVP said Monday that she’s ready to compete for a championship now that she’s finally fully healthy again.

She said she feels “so much better” in comparison to last season as she sat down with the media following the start of Washington Mystics training camp.

Delle Donne returned to the court in 2021 but played in just three games before dealing with nerve pain that stemmed from her two back surgeries since 2019. In those three games, she averaged 13.7 points and 4.3 rebounds through 17 minutes played.

“It’s a newfound me,” she said. “A newfound joy of the game, knowing that this game was nearly taken from me.

“I want to win. That’s really the only thing I care about at this point…This is going to be a great year, and a great team too.”

She also credits Mike Davis, the Mystics’ and Wizards’ director of physical and performance therapy, for helping her learn how to put less strain on her back. Instead of putting pressure on her back in everything, she says she now has learned how to use the explosiveness of her legs.

Still, both Delle Donne and Mystics coach Mike Thibault said that they could keep her out of games as a precaution when there’s a big stretch of travel or a large number of games in one week.

The Mystics open their preseason on Sunday, April 24, against the Atlanta Dream, before their regular season opener against the Indiana Fever on Friday, May 6.