The Washington Mystics, still basking in the glow of a championship, have been very quiet all offseason. We heard almost nothing about Elena Delle Donne’s back, Eric Thibault’s potential departure, or any of the team’s free agents. Until this week! The Mystics burst back into the news this week with a flurry of announcements and news.
The MVPs are coming back
Earlier today on the Winsidr Show (an absolute must listen btw), Mystics Head Coach and GM Mike Thibault shared some excellent news for Mystics fans. When asked about the possibility of Emma Meesseman not coming back to DC, he quickly said “she’s coming back.” Then, he informed the show that the Mystics have verbal commitments in place to bring back both Meesseman and Elena Delle Donne.
The Washington Mystics have a verbal agreement in place with Elena Delle Donne and Emma Meesseman to re-sign with DC, according to Coach Mike Thibault on the Winsidr Show.#winsidr #wnba #WNBAFreeAgency
— Winsidr (@TheWinsidr) January 30, 2020
Coach T also shut down any rumors of Emma Meesseman potentially not playing in the 2020 season. He said “she will be back and she will play.” We don’t know the terms of the contract yet. But both players likely signed 4-year contracts for the supermax salary. The contract would be worth about $899k total over the life of the deal.
The Mystics won the title last year on the backs of Delle Donne’s regular season MVP performance and Meesseman’s Finals MVP performance. Fire up the #RunItBack2Back hashtag!
Kristi Toliver expected to return
Coach T mentioned that Kristi Toliver has not yet agreed to a verbal agreement. But the team expects her to come back to DC next season and is working on her negotiations now. Toliver works for the Wizards as an assistant coach and has been with the Mystics since 2017.
SPECULATION ALERT: I’m guessing that the holdup with Toliver is figuring out how many years she still wants to play. At 33, the three-time All Star still has plenty of great basketball years but she still has to think about the next chapter. For the Mystics, they really can’t offer another long-term supermax deal without compromising next year’s plans to re-sign Natasha Cloud, Aerial Powers, and Latoya Sanders among others. I’m guessing that the team and Toliver are discussing a one-year max deal or longer term deals at less than the max.
As far as other free agency plans, Coach T said that the team “would love to add pieces to help them repeat” but that the reality of the situation probably won’t allow that. The team doesn’t have much financial room to sign new players and Thibault said “he’s not in the mood” to change up the roster that just won a title with trades.
The plan for Eric Thibault
Coach T was on fire in this podcast. Go listen to it. He spoke about the plan for his son, Eric, to take over the head coaching job once Mike decides to take a step back. Of course, stepping back for a Thibault is different than it is for most people. Coach T would become the Mystics’ full-time GM and Eric would be the head coach, if everything goes according to plan.
This confirms what many in the WNBA community thought was the plan in DC. Mike has been grooming his son for years to take this position. Eric has already been the interest of a few head coaching searches, including getting a job offer that he turned down as his dad told the Winsidr show. Mike called his son “a basketball savant,” which is in line with everything we’ve heard about Eric around the organization.
Mike is 69 years old, so he could decide to transition soon. But, being around the team last year, you could see how much he loved coaching this group and how much they loved him. We’ll have to see how soon he wants to give it up.
Elena Delle Donne’s back surgery
On Wednesday, the team announced via a press release that Elena Delle Donne had back surgery on January 24th. The WNBA MVP had the surgery in Dallas and the team expects her to be ready to play at the beginning of the season.
Mystics Medical Update 📰 pic.twitter.com/QwQ2PeKDso
— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) January 29, 2020
EDD suffered three herniated disks in her back during the WNBA Finals. She played through the pain to get the Mystics a title. But clearly, she was not 100%.
On the Winsidr Show, Coach T elaborated on the press release. He called it “a very simple procedure” and said the surgery went well with EDD already feeling some relief. She had a fragment of a disk pressing up against a nerve, which is a very difficult injury to treat. The team tried a conservative approach early in the off-season, but Coach T said that she wasn’t progressing fast enough and that approach may not have solved the issues long-term.
Coach T’s expectation is that she can be back on the court in 3-4 months, which puts her in training camp and have her ready for the start of the season. He seemed very calm about the situation and said “everyone [with the Mystics]really believes in the process so far.” Nothing is predictable with back injuries as we saw last year with Diana Taurasi. But everything sounds as good as it can for EDD and the Mystics.