NEW YORK—Chiney Ogwumike and Elena Delle Donne will have a major impact on the Los Angeles Sparks and Washington Mystics playoff chances now that they’re back on the basketball court.
The two finally returned after long layoffs due to injuries.
Los Angeles welcomed back Ogwumike, who had been sidelined with a knee issue since May 28. She returned against New York on Aug. 22.
“When I got the green light, I was like, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ I think that’s the best feeling, when something’s gone, you miss it more. I’ve missed it a lot,” she said.
Ogwumike expects to be on a minutes limit for a few games.
“My knee felt really great out there,” she said. “My teammates give me so much confidence. They know my journey has been a long journey. But this is a special group, and to be out there with my sis again and to do some of the things we’ve always talked about … today was a great day.”
Meanwhile, Delle Donne missed nearly two years with a back injury and COVID-19 precautions. The Washington Mystics star played in her first game in 682 days this past Sunday. The former MVP last played in the decisive Game 5 of the WNBA Finals in 2019 that gave the Mystics their first championship.
“It was an amazing day just to be out there and competing with my teammates. It’s been quite a whirlwind,” said Delle Donne, who scored 16 points in her return. “You know I’m running out and I was like, a little bit emotional. I was like, I can’t add crying right now [because] I’m nervous. I certainly felt it welling up in my eyes for a second.”
Delle Donne said that her back and body felt good and that she will do treatment and see how she feels for the rest of the week. The 31-year-old forward said the most difficult part was “being so unsure if the nerve pain is going to take over again, so that’s the concern.”
While the Mystics welcomed Delle Donne back, the team will be missing Olympic gold-medalist Tina Charles because of a strained left gluteal.
The Sparks, at 10-13, are one of the hottest teams coming out of the Olympic break with four victories since play resumed. It’s no coincidence that the main reason is they are healthy now and playing stellar defense. Los Angeles is holding its opponents to just over 74 points a game in the four wins.