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Elena Delle Donne has played only 52 minutes of professional basketball since winning the first WNBA title for both herself and the Washington Mystics franchise in October 2019. It looks like a more permanent (fingers crossed) return is around the corner as she rehabs from two back surgeries.
Delle Donne is not the only star, or the only former champion, to come into the 2022 season off an injury. But are they all at 100% and ready to go for opening tipoffs? And who isn't in market yet while playing with their overseas clubs during the final preseason before prioritization? Fans and new WNBA fantasy players will surely want to know.
Here are the stars (broken down by team) coming back from injury and their status for opening weekend, as well as how much time, if applicable, players are expected to miss. Those still overseas are temporarily suspended. This post will be updated ahead of tipoff on Friday and as teams release official injury reports (updated at 3 p.m. ET).
Friday vs. Indiana Fever (7 p.m. ET on Facebook), Sunday at Minnesota Lynx (8 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
Elena Delle Donne
Status: active Friday; out for Sunday
WNBA fans couldn't help but smile at Delle Donne's preseason stat line against the Lynx: 21 points, 9-13 FG, 3-5 3FG. The 32-year-old two-time MVP underwent two back surgeries within a calendar year for herniated discs she played through during those 2019 WNBA Finals. The last time fans saw her consistently, she completed the only 50/40/90 line in WNBA history.
— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) April 27, 2022
Delle Donne did not play in the 2020 season because of concerns around her Lyme Disease and COVID-19 precautions, and she underwent a second back surgery in December 2020. She appeared to be on the road back to a starting role early in the season, but it was continuously delayed. After playing parts of three games in August, she was shut down when nerve pain resurfaced. In the offseason she’s worked with trainers on reteaching herself tasks as simple as walking and getting out of bed to ease any flare-ups or back pain.
Both she and head coach/general manager Mike Thibault have already cautioned extra rest time or Delle Donne not joining the team on rough travel weeks. The first will be Sunday when the team takes a trip to Minnesota. Thibault wants her available for opening night and Tuesday against the Indiana Fever. But he said she will not face a minutes restriction on Friday night
Injury: Lisfranc (right foot) occurs when one or more of the metatarsal bones are displaced from the tarsal bones they connect.
Status: out, expected to remain out for couple of games
Clark, 34, missed all of the 2021 season after injuring her foot in March of that year while playing overseas in Lyon, France. The two-time WNBA champion with the Seattle Storm signed a multiyear deal with the Mystics in free agency months prior to surgery. She’s one of the top defenders in the league and told reporters at the start of camp she’ll continue rehab throughout the season due to the nature of it.
I started crying happy tears! This was the 1st time I didn’t think about my foot while on the court & felt like a 🏀 player again. All the rehab & work got me to that one moment. Man. Had to take that feeling in. They thought I was hurt, had to tell them it was tears of joy🙏🏽😊
— Alysha Clark (@Alysha_Clark) April 27, 2022
Opener: Saturday at Wings (8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
Parker played in 13 games in 2021 before ending her season early due to her pregnancy. She gave birth in December to her first child, Naomi, and has been in training camp.
Dream overseas: Tiffany Hayes (Ormanspor) is in the KBSL semifinals. Her club leads, 2-0, in the best-of-five series and she could miss a couple more weeks.
Opener: Friday vs. Sparks (8 p.m. ET, NBA TV)
Status: out, expected to return May 14
The sharp-shooter has been limited in practice and head coach James Wade said they're being cautious. Quigley said there isn't anything specific keeping her from playing other than not feeling 100%, Annie Costabile of the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Wade also said she wasn't 100%. She is expected to be out the first two games and return May 14.
Sky overseas: Kahleah Copper (Avenida) is in the semifinals in Spain and advanced to the finals on Thursday. Julie Allemand (Lyon) began the playoffs last week in France. Rebekah Gardner is also overseas and Li Yueru has yet to arrive while working to secure a visa. Her agent, Mike Cound, told Costabile she is expected in Chicago by the end of May.
Opener: Saturday at New York Liberty (6 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Sun overseas/away: DeWanna Bonner (CBK Mersin, Turkey) could miss anywhere from 3-7 games, per Rachel Galligan of Just Women's Sports. CBK Mersin is in the Turkish KBSL semifinals and leads, 2-0.
Courtney Williams will miss the first two games while suspended. The Sun have an entire week off from Games 1 and 2 to start the season.
Opener: Saturday vs. Dream (8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
Wings overseas: Satou Sabally (Fenerbahce Safiport) is still in the KBSL semifinals and will potentially move into the finals with a win on Friday. Teaira McCown (Ormanspor) is playing in the other KBSL semifinal. Her club trails, 2-0, with Game 3 on Saturday. Both players are temporarily suspended while they compete overseas.
Opener: Friday at Mystics (7 p.m. ET, Facebook), Sunday vs. Sparks (3 p.m. ET, Amazon Prime)
Fever overseas: Danielle Robinson (Ormanspor) is in the KBSL semifinal. Her season could end on Saturday with a loss. Bria Hartley (Fenerbahce Safiport) is in the other semifinal, but could move on with a win on Friday over Fever teammate Alaina Coates (Nesibe Aydin).
LAS VEGAS ACES
Opener: Friday at Mercury (10 p.m., NBA TV), Sunday vs. Storm (10 p.m., ESPN2)
Injury: Left foot
Status: Questionable for Sunday
Injury: Concussion protocol
Status: Questionable for Sunday
LOS ANGELES SPARKS
Openers: Friday at Sky (8 p.m. ET, NBA TV), Sunday at Fever (3 p.m. ET, Amazon Prime)
Status: out, week-to-week
Sparks overseas/away: Amanda Zahui B (Fenerbahce, Turkey) is on the full-season suspended list, the Sparks announced on Thursday. Head coach Derek Fisher said there was a chance she could miss more than 10 games in the 36-game schedule and tough choices had to be made. Her club leads the KBSL best-of-five semifinal series, 2-0, with Game 3 on Friday. Katie Lou Samuelson (Avenida) is also in the finals in Spain after clinching the spot on Thursday.
Kristi Toliver is currently coaching with the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA postseason. The Mavericks trail the Suns, 2-0, with Game 3 on Friday night.
Openers: Friday at Storm (10 p.m. ET, Twitter), Sunday vs. Mystics (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Injury: torn ACL, meniscus (right)
Status: out, not with team (NWT)
McCoughtry, 35, missed all but a few minutes of the 2021 season while rehabbing an ACL injury from May 2021. She was on a minutes restriction in the 2020 bubble season while recovering from an ACL injury to her other knee that knocked her out of the 2019 season. Head coach Cheryl Reeve said McCoughtry received a platelet-rich plasma injection on May 3, putting her availability in doubt for Friday.
Status: out, NWT
Dantas sustained a stress fracture in her right foot toward the end of the 2021 season and was unable to play for Brazil in the pre-World Cup schedule. She did not take part in the first parts of Lynx training camp. Her status was 2-3 weeks as of April 20.
Status: out indefinitely, NWT
Collier is expecting her first child in May with her fiancé, Alex Bazzell. Her status for the year is unclear, but upon signing her new extension she said she will try everything she can to return particularly for Sylvia Fowles final year. The Lynx, which announced a multiyear deal with their 2019 Rookie of the Year, have her on their roster.
Overseas: Kayla McBride (Fenerbahce Safiport) could miss a couple of weeks while in the league semifinals and finals. Her club leads 2-0, with Game 3 on Friday.
NEW YORK LIBERTY
Saturday vs. Connecticut Sun (6 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Injury: Grade 3 ankle sprain (left)
Ionescu, 24, told reporters on the first day of Liberty camp that she spent the last eight months rehabbing. She sprained her left ankle in the third game of her WNBA career and missed the rest of the 2020 bubble season. Though she returned for most games in 2021, she wasn’t fully herself and said on the “All the Smoke” podcast it felt like she was playing on a “wooden leg.”
The 2020 No. 1 overall draft pick and NCAA leader in all-time triple-doubles is viewing this year a career reset.
Injury: long-haul COVID-19
Durr, 25, who now goes by AD Durr missed the past two seasons while dealing with a case of long COVID. The 2019 No. 2 overall pick first tested positive in July 2020 and experienced debilitating ongoing symptoms that included intense lung pain and fatigue.
Doctors cleared Durr to play basketball in November and she returned to Liberty's training camp for the first time in three years. She said brain fog has been an ongoing challenge.
Injury: torn Achilles (left)
Willoughby, 24, tore her left Achilles in a scrimmage on May 2, 2021, and was ruled out for her sophomore season. She averaged 5.8 PPG and 2.4 RPG shooting a team-best 40.5% from behind the arc as a rookie out of Virginia. Coaches and teammates praised her work and progress in training camp. Head coach Sandy Brondello said she is "even better than I thought she was" during Liberty media day.
Richards injured her hamstring in the preseason scrimmage against the Sun and won't be available for the opener, Jackie Powell of The Next reported. She is expected to play Wednesday in Chicago.
Laney had a cleanup procedure for a torn meniscus after the 2021 season and had been practicing with the team. Her absence for the opener is precautionary, per Powell, so she has extra rest before a road trip and two games in three days. She is expected back for the Sky game.
Liberty overseas: Rebecca Allen (Valencia) qualified for the Spanish league finals on Thursday. The series begins May 8, so Allen will miss a couple more weeks.
Opener: Friday vs. Aces (10 p.m. ET, NBA TV)
Injury: torn ACL
Nurse tore her ACL in Game 4 of the WNBA semifinals against the Aces in October and did not play the rest of the postseason. She split her offseason between Toronto and Phoenix while rehabbing and participated in camp without a knee brace.
“We’re optimistic to get her back hopefully midseason," first-year Phoenix head coach Vanessa Nygaard said at the start of camp. "Her safe return will be the No. 1 priority. We’re not going to bring her back until she’s full go.”
Friday vs. Minnesota Lynx (10 p.m. ET, Amazon Prime regionally or WNBA League Pass), Sunday at Las Vegas Aces (10 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
Injury: Achilles (left) — surgery for “minor repair and reinforcement of the Achilles tendon in her left leg.”
Stewart, 27, missed the Storm’s final two regular-season games and playoff matchup. The two-time WNBA Finals MVP previously ruptured her right Achilles in April 2019 during the EuroLeague finals and missed the entirety of the 2019 season.
She returned to 5-on-5 action in March and was at Team USA camp in Minneapolis during the NCAA Final Four. She “eased” back into Seattle practices late last month.
Injury: non-basketball related
Status: out 3-to-5 weeks (7-12 games)
The Storm announced last month Russell was "treated for a non-basketball related injury" and would miss training camp. She has been at camp in street clothes.
"Russell is in the process to return to play following a non-basketball related injury," the Storm said on Thursday. "She is expected to miss another 3-5 weeks, a more specific update on her return date will be provided when available."