In a notable development within the WNBA, Elena Delle Donne, a two-time league MVP, has announced her decision to temporarily step away from the sport. Sources close to ESPN have revealed that Delle Donne, a pivotal player for the Washington Mystics, is not planning to accept the one-year supermax contract offered by the team.
This hiatus marks a significant moment for the 34-year-old star who played a key role in leading the Mystics to their first championship in 2019. The duration of her break from basketball remains uncertain, as per insider information.
The window for signing WNBA free agency contracts opened on February 1st. Delle Donne, amidst this period, continued to evaluate her career trajectory. Recently, she reached a conclusion that more time is needed to contemplate her future in the sport, as indicated by sources close to the situation.
Prior to the onset of free agency, Delle Donne, whose career has been marked by a courageous comeback from multiple back surgeries, had expressed uncertainty about her continued involvement in basketball. She communicated this to the Mystics' management, aiming to avoid any disruption to the team's offseason strategies.
Mystics' Strategic Response
In response to this uncertainty, the Mystics opted to apply the core designation to Delle Donne. This strategic move prevented potential loss without compensation during free agency. A "core player" designation restricts a free agent's ability to negotiate freely, as the team retains exclusive rights to the player.
This designation entails an automatic offer of a one-year supermax contract, with the possibility of exploring other teams only via a trade. Should Delle Donne decide to not participate in the entire season, the Mystics hold the option to place the core designation on her again next season.
The decision to core Delle Donne had ripple effects, most notably impacting Natasha Cloud. With the core designation used on Delle Donne, Cloud, unable to receive the same status, transitioned to the Phoenix Mercury as a free agent.
Delle Donne's hiatus from basketball is not just a personal decision, but it also reshapes the landscape of the WNBA, highlighting the intricate dynamics of player contracts and team strategies in the league.