Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WNBA Feature: As Delle Donne Gets Healthier So Does Chicago

( Guru note: This is a companion to Megan Nipe's game story that will post later Wednesday. )

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

With a large bottle of orange-flavored Pedialyte resting comfortably on a black chair on the Chicago Sky bench about 90 minutes before tip-off against the Washington Mystics at the Verizon Center Wednesday morning, Elena Delle Donne buried shot after shot during her usual pre-game shooting routine.

The former Delaware star and last year’s WNBA Rookie of the Year was home in her sanctuary and enjoying herself.

She wants everybody to know she is getting her groove back, one possession at a time. Delle Donne missed 17 games this season after a serious flare-up of her Lyme disease.

“It’s been a tough journey especially the month I had to spend away from the team,” Delle Donne said while sitting on the bench and clutching her Pedialyte with both hands prior to the game. “Now that I am back, I have a message with (Chicago head coach and general manager) Pokey Chatman where some games I will feel great and other games I won’t.

“I’ll kind of give her the eye where she’ll either take me out or leave me in so it’s kind of something we are still working on. My playing time varies and I am OK with that. I am definitely doing much better and obviously being on the court is a huge improvement for me.”

Delle Donne’s presence has also lifted the Sky’s spirits and sent them soaring up in the Eastern Conference standings.

Wednesday’s game against the Mystics was Delle Donne’s sixth since her return against New York on July 31.

The Sky improved to 5-1 overall since Delle Donne’s return following their 72-69 victory over the Mystics in a key Eastern Conference clash.

Both teams have identical 15-17 records and are tied for second place. In the 15 games that Delle Donne has played this season, Chicago is 9-2 against Eastern Conference opponents and 10-5 overall.

A mark like that makes the Sky a serious contender for the Eastern Conference crown.

“I am extremely confident in our ability to do some good things if we’re able to make the playoffs this season,” Delle Donne said. “We have faced so much adversity this season. Adversity is something that you’ll face in the playoffs so I know we’re used to it so that’s a great thing. Finally, I think we’ll have all 12 players on the court and that’s exciting too.”

It’s also nice seeing Delle Donne on the court.

She made her first appearance in Wednesday’s game with 5 minutes, 24 seconds remaining in the opening quarter and was her usual impactful self throughout the contest.

Overall, she finished with 18 points on an efficient 7-for-9 shooting in a season-high 23 minutes. Delle Donne has scored in double figures in five of the six games since her return.

Afterwards, sitting in the locker room, Delle Donne looked like she could play some more minutes.

“I feel really good,” Delle Donne said. “I started off slow and I was able to play into it and feel a lot better as the game went on. So today was a good one.

"This is probably the best I’ve felt following a game so that’s encouraging.”

She made both of her baskets – a jumper and a short floater – to stake the Sky to a 19-10 lead after the first quarter.

She quelled a potential Mystic uprising by draining a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter after Washington scored eight straight points to pull to within 21-18.

That basket started a quick 5-0 burst for the Sky.

After the Mystics took their only lead of the game, Delle Donne scored five points to help Chicago gain a 52-45 edge entering the fourth quarter. She closed the game by scoring six critical points in the fourth quarter.

“The best way I can describe what I am dealing with is it’s like playing with the flu,” Delle Donne said. "It’s really a lot of bad achiness. My muscles would be really sore during the game and definitely afterwards.

"It’s just a lot of inflammation. That’s really the only way I can describe it.

"Imagine playing with severe fever-like symptoms. I drink an entire bottle of
Pedialyte throughout the whole game and it helps me with my shakiness that I have during the game. The electrolytes really help me.”

The Sky are beginning to get used to life with Delle Donne again.

“Elena’s still not 100 percent in terms of conditioning,” Chatman said. “We have to be really careful with her in the minutes we pick with her.

"She’s an incredible piece for us because she changes the defensive scheme of our opponents because her presence also allows us to do more things offensively.”

Some of those things include playing Sylvia Fowles in the post and Delle Donne up on the perimeter. They combined for 39 points against the Mystics.

Fowles has more space to operate while Delle Donne’s presence also allows players like Allie Quigley, Tamera Young and Epiphanny Prince better shot attempts.

“The hardest thing for me was getting my timing back, spacing, having an awareness of where the rest of the team was and getting into the flow of things,” Delle Donne said. “It’s different not being able to play for a month. I had to take my time and also at the same time listen to my body so I don’t have a relapse.”

For an elite-level athlete like Delle Donne, knowing when to say enough and rest has been challenging.

“It’s really hard because I am a player who likes to play 40 minutes and if it’s a close game, I want to be in there,” Delle Donne said. “Unfortunately if I push too much, it could send me back out of games. I have to be really smart with everything and Pokey helps me out a lot.”

Her preparation starts before she arrives to the arena especially on the road.

Since air travel presents some unique challenges for Delle Donne, she has to spend additional time taking additional precautions such as wearing a NormaTec device when she’s resting at the hotel.

“Flying is really bad for me and it makes the inflammation rise up so I drink a lot of water to flush it out of my system,” Delle Donne said. “I have a norm-a-tech device and it goes from my waist all the way down to my leg. It kind of pushes pressure into my legs to get try and get some of the inflammation out.”

Following games, Delle Donne gets massages and repeats the same pre-game process of drinking Pedialyte, wearing the NormaTec device and relaxing.

Delle Donne can get a little extra rest the rest of the week because the Sky don’t play until Saturday when they visit Indiana.

Then they will wrap up the regular season at home Sunday against the San Antonio Silver Stars -- a game in which they hope will be reduced to a tuneup for the playoffs and a chance to advance beyond their first-round knockout a year ago after winning the top seed in the East.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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