Elena Delle Donne, the 2019 WNBA MVP for the league champion Washington Mystics, will not play in USA Basketball's four exhibition games in November on college campuses because of a back injury she dealt with during the WNBA Finals.
Delle Donne's agent, Erin Kane, confirmed that due to the injury, Delle Donne won't be able to play in the games at Stanford (Nov. 2), Oregon State (Nov. 4), Texas A&M (Nov. 7) and Oregon (Nov. 9). She will be replaced on the USA roster for these games; the announcement of who will join the team is expected by USA Basketball later this week.
Delle Donne was diagnosed with three herniated disks on Oct. 2 after she left the court early in Game 2 of the Finals the night before. It was reported, though, as one herniated disk until Delle Donne's teammate, Natasha Cloud, revealed in the Mystics' post-championship news conference on Oct. 10 the actual extent of the injury. Delle Donne then confirmed it.
Delle Donne returned to action for Game 3 vs. the Connecticut Sun on Oct. 6 and had 13 points and six rebounds despite being obviously limited in movement. She had 11 points and five rebounds in Game 4 on Oct. 8. She said she was feeling better for Game 5 on Oct. 10, and then had 21 points and nine rebounds as the Mystics won their first championship.
Delle Donne is part of a group of eight athletes who have committed to training and playing for the U.S. squad throughout the next several months in preparation for the 2020 Olympics. She won a gold medal with the team in 2016; the Americans are seeking their seventh consecutive Olympic gold.
The U.S. team will play more college exhibitions in early 2020, and Delle Donne's availability for those games is unknown. During the Finals, she said she hoped to avoid surgery but would weigh her options in consultation with doctors.
Last year, Delle Donne suffered a bone bruise to her left knee in the WNBA semifinals but still played in the 2018 WNBA Finals and then in the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup soon afterward. But that caused her a lot of lingering pain into 2019. She said earlier this month that once she got through the 2019 Finals, she would exercise more caution going forward when it came to playing hurt.
"I'm 30, and I know what that World Cup did to me," Delle Donne said on Oct. 7. "There comes a point where I need to be smarter. I can't continue to crush my body. I'll definitely be a little bit smarter this go-round."
The seven players other than Delle Donne who make up the USA team's core eight are Seattle's Sue Bird, Dallas' Skylar Diggins-Smith, Minnesota's Sylvia Fowles, Los Angeles' Chelsea Gray and Nneka Ogwumike, Phoenix's Diana Taurasi and Las Vegas' A'ja Wilson.
Others players from the national team pool previously were named to join the core eight for the November exhibition games: Minnesota's Seimone Augustus and Napheesa Collier, Connecticut's Layshia Clarendon and Las Vegas' Kelsey Plum. Plus the player or players USA Basketball soon will announce.
Due to previous personal commitments, Gray will miss the game at Stanford and Plum will miss the Stanford and Oregon State games.