Washington Mystics guard-forward Elena Delle Donne and center Tina Charles have entered the WNBA's medical evaluation protocol and did not travel with the team to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, for the league's scheduled 22-game season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, per Ava Wallace of the Washington Post.
Per a Mystics team statement, "an update on their status will be given when their evaluations are finalized."
The reasoning for Delle Donne and Charles entering the medical evaluation protocol had not been made public, but Delle Donne soon followed up on the team's statement:
Elena Delle Donne @De11eDonne
Many of you know about my ongoing battle with Lyme Disease, and a compromised immune system. For now I'm following protocol and waiting for a risk assessment from the league medical panel. Missing my teammates but health and safety are the priority 🙏 https://t.co/3oChtiaqXJ
The WNBA had previously laid out plans for medical screening prior to teams traveling to Florida for the season, however. Michele Voepel of ESPNW ran down the battery of tests players received prior to entering the bubble environment:
"Players are to receive a physical and a cardiac screening, fill out a medical questionnaire and have three coronavirus tests, all before going to Florida. They will also self-quarantine a week before the arrival date of July 6.
"If a player tests positive prior to travel, she won't be allowed to come to the site until after following extensive Centers for Disease Control protocol, which includes home isolation and then two negative tests."
A start date for the proposed season has yet to be announced. The WNBA announced its plans for the season in mid-June.
Tyler Byrum of NBC Sports Washington provided more context into the protocol's purpose: "The protocol is in place to allow players who are at high-risk for the coronavirus to opt-out for the year and still receive their full salary. Players can choose to opt-out for non-medical reasons but will not receive pay."
As for Delle Donne, Wallace gave more insight into her situation: "Delle Donne also had back surgery early this year, the rehab for which was likely (?) interrupted. I would guess she was trying to do everything possible to get back in time for the Olympics, but once those were delayed, I wonder how likely a 2020 season would be for her anyway."
Delle Donne, a six-time WNBA All-Star and two-time MVP, played an instrumental role in the Mystics' championship run. She posted 19.5 points on a career-high 51.5 percent shooting and 8.2 rebounds en route to her second MVP. The ex-Delaware star also knocked down 43.0 percent of her three-pointers.
Losing Delle Donne for any amount of time would be a huge blow for the Mystics, even if the rest of the roster is more than capable of holding its own against the rest of the league.
The problem is that the Mystics will enter the season significantly shorthanded if they lose Charles and Delle Donne, as WNBA reporter Matt Ellentuck pointed out:
Charles played college ball at UConn before going first overall to Connecticut in the 2010 WNBA draft. She figures to play a significant role in helping the Mystics stay atop their championship perch whenever she takes the court next.
Charles posted 16.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists last year for the Libs.
The Mystics are looking to defend their first-ever WNBA title after beating the Sun in five games in the Finals.
Washington finished first in the 12-team league with a 26-8 regular-season record before taking down the Las Vegas Aces 3-1 in the semifinals.