Elena Delle Donne, with her new body, still looks like her old self

Placeholder while loading article actions

Elena Delle Donne does this thing with her hips.

Breathing as you stand away from the fringes of the Washington Mystics. While she is on the field preparing for another round. Even while showing a video that was shown during a Friday night timeout, when she showed her co-star Tiana Hawkins the slow, rotating pelvic movement she would have to do to stay free these days.

After two back surgeries, agonizing days of rehab, and the unseen toll that weighed on a young professional athlete who had played pre-season in just three games over the past two seasons, those hip twists are just part of it. Everyday life. As is her dislike of sitting.

Elena Delle Donne flashed familiarly as the Mystics win the opening match

“I don’t like chairs,” said Dele Donne, as she acclimated to the chairs after her season debut of 21 points and nine rebounds. It was the first time she’d played on opening night since 2018, but before she could talk about it, she warned a room full of reporters about the daily battles between a sitting position and someone with a disoriented back.

“You guys shouldn’t, either. You will learn someday.”

Her body shows evidence of a grueling cupping therapy session – those dark red circles on her back and shoulders. When she takes a break, she’s sitting above everyone else on the sidelines of the Mystics because she’s sitting in a special comfy chair that makes the 6-foot-5 star look as if she’s floating on a booster seat. But despite appearing as an elderly veteran, 32-year-old Delei Dawn still looked like herself throughout the day that ended in an 84-70 win over the Indiana Fever.

In the morning, she finds her rhythm – and bragging – from behind the three-point arc. The Mystics finished shooting with a knockout version. The players took turns trying three times. Delle Donne stayed in the same spot and swayed. When a female teammate tried to follow one of her Velvet players and missed, Delle Donne looked her way, smiled and waved goodbye.

“She loves being here. You can see it — she’s laughing and smiling,” said coach Mike Thibault from the sidelines while observing the post-training scene. “It feels good doing what she loves most. It’s been taken away from her for a while, and part of that — I mean, she’ll tell you, there’s an appreciation for being able to do it again and an appreciation for what it went through to get back into this. “

By evening, Delle Donne was much closer to the edge, set up by the very old humans who wanted to block her shot. But she didn’t once shy away from calling while teaching Fever rookies Emily Engstler and NaLyssa Smith, both of whom had the difficult task of defending the league’s top player twice, a new body and all.

In the fourth quarter, Dale sent Don Engstler, dribbled once, then turned around and rushed to score through the foul. She walked away because lazy grandmothers who roll on the hip can’t do what you’re doing.

There’s nothing aging about leading the team in rebounding or teaching Smith that her true signature move actually involves moving her foot — not hip rolls — and then maneuvering into the paint to score her first of her eight field goals. Delle Donne didn’t play in the slow lane, but she was patient in providing some “Welcome to the League” moments for beginners.

“I had my share when I was little, so it was time to get it,” she joked.

Sometimes, Delle Donne looked like Favorite pre-season MVP, as one WNBA blogger recently predicted. But even more than that, she seemed more connected. Like someone going after her passion even when they act cruel in return.

She’s a bit older now, and has a little more perspective on what’s important in life, but there’s still more to learn.

“What can this new body that I have created do,” said Daily Dawn. “I’ve spent many hours, especially on these legs. There are times when it’s more like jumping and rising than I’m used to on the ground and it messes up the timing, sometimes. Just trying to figure out what it feels like to have a base and be able to move from the bottom.”

As Dele Donne strutted to the floor with a last player submission and fans made sure to hear their admiration ring in her ears, those cheers had to mean something more. They know what she’s been through just to show off. But they don’t know the whole story.

With all due respect to the first-half issue – a man entertained the crowd by balancing a sombrero on his chin, then a table, then a ladder, then climbed a ladder to perform the same balancing trick with another ladder – Dele Donne appears and plays perhaps the most impressive feat seen in this The stadium since Mystics celebrated the 2019 title.

“You played through the pain to get a championship,” Thibault said. “I just know from everyday things, everything she’s been through that most people haven’t seen but I’ve seen, that she’s done it for two years trying to get back to that point.”

Thibault paused as he did when giving a thoughtful answer. We’ve seen hip rolls and I read about how she couldn’t bend over To pick up items you dropped. But he saw more private torment and lonely action. Those six to seven hour days during December and January when it was just her and the coach in the yard doing rehab. So Thibault needed a few hits to make sure people understand that this isn’t just another comeback story about an injured athlete.

He continued, “The work that was done, she gave everything she had to be able to do it.”

When Dele Donne finally left the field for the last time, with just a little more than a minute left until the season-opening win was final, she handed out a heartbeat to the end of the Mystics streak. Neither her facial expressions nor her body revealed traces of pain or exhaustion. However, she did not travel with the team to Minneapolis. Instead, I stayed inside the Entertainment and Sports Arena late into the night for recovery work.

She planned to come back early the next morning for shots with her forever shooting instructor, her father. Then back to the protocol for her return to play. She will probably do some hip laps. Her rejuvenated body hasn’t seen much work in a long time, but Delle Donne has proven that she can still be the player she has always been.