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.

Monday, June 05, 2017

WNBA Feature: Washington Stars Call Themselves a Work in Progress Despite Being Tops in the East


Elena Delle Donne and Tayler Hill admitted that the Washington Mystics are still a work in progress despite their recent four-game winning streak that has them sitting with the second-best record in the WNBA at 5-2 overall.

Sometimes the journey to the final destination can resemble a super model without makeup. The Mystics are expected to contend for a championship after adding Delle Donne and veteran guard Kristi Toliver, who helped the Los Angeles Sparks win a championship last year.

“We’ve had a lot of people in and out of our lineup so far this season,” Delle Donne said Monday during a conference call as the Mystics were boarding their plane for Dallas. “The good thing is we’ve been able to grind it out and be successful. We are not where we want to be right now. Coach (Mike Thibault) told us to trust the process.”

The Mystics, who are already missing Emma Messessman because she’s competing in the EuroBasket championships, could be without Hill for a second consecutive game when they visit Dallas (3-4 overall) in a nationally-televised showcase Tuesday on ESPN2 from the College Park Center in Arlington.

The star-studded affair features the second (Delle-Donne), third (Skylar Diggins-Smith of Dallas) and fourth (Hill of Washington) selections of the memorable 2013 WNBA Draft.

Hill is still recovering from the effects of a hard fall against Connecticut last Wednesday. She said she is feeling better but she will be a game time decision. The fall resulted in Hill hurting her shoulder and head. In their last game against Atlanta on Sunday, Washington won 78-72 while having eight players in uniform.

“We all have to learn each other’s games,” Hill said. “We know that the chemistry is going to come. It’s a process for us this season. Whenever you bring in great players. It takes a lot of pressure off of you. (Elena and Kristi) bring so much to the court that it makes the game easier for everybody on the team. Makes it easier on the offensive and defensive end.”

The Mystics have flourished early behind a balanced approach and a deep bench. They have also prevailed because of a lockdown defense late in games. The Mystics defeated the Sun despite shooting 35 percent.

“I do not think we are even close on our offensive chemistry right now because we are not shooting well,” Thibault said after Sunday’s win. “We are winning despite not shooting well. We had it for about five minutes at the start and five minutes for the start of the third quarter when we were fresh.

“ Once we got tired, I think it goes away. Playing two rookies tonight, that have not played a lot of minutes, kind of throws off the timing of your offense. Without Emma [Meesseman] and without Tayler [Hill] and Natasha [Cloud], our offense doesn’t quite look the same. I would say we are operating at 50 percent offensively right now.”

Of course anytime you have Delle Donne, 50 percent is better than most teams. She recorded her second straight double-double against the Dream with 23 points and a career best 15 rebounds. The graduate of Delaware has scored at least 20 points four times this season.

However, while the on-court chemistry is still being developed, Washington already has a championship culture in place. It was one of the things that Delle Donne immediately observed when she arrived to the Mystics, who are a playful group off of the court.

“The culture from day one has been super special,” Delle Donne said. “We are jelling off the court and in the locker room. It’s going to be a process. Coach T invites a family orientated atmosphere and it’s exciting along with the basketball part of it. It’s also exciting to see that we’ve been able to grind out games early in the season. We are focused on the little things and controlling what we can control.”

This week will test the Mystics. After visiting Dallas, Washington returns home to host the undefeated Minnesota Lynx on Friday night.