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Mystics' Elena Delle Donne undergoes 'minor' back surgery, expected back by season opener

Elena Delle Donne had back surgery last week but is expected to make it back for the team's opener in May. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

Washington Mystics forward and 2019 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne underwent successful back surgery last Friday and is expected to return in time for the season opener, the team announced Wednesday.

Delle Donne, 30, played through three herniated discs in her back during the 2019 WNBA Finals, leading the Mystics to their first championship with a 3-2 series win over the Connecticut Sun. The team called the surgery, performed by spinal orthopedist Dr. Andrew Dossett in Dallas, “minor” and will update her status at the beginning of training camp.

The Mystics said she is “expected to return to play by the beginning of the WNBA season.” They tip off the 2020 campaign against the Los Angeles Sparks on ESPN.

Delle Donne, who also won MVP in 2015, averaged a second-best 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season. She became the first WNBA player to join the 50/40/90 club by shooting 51.5 percent from the field, 43 percent from 3-point range and 97.4 percent from the free throw line. It was the first league title of her seven-year career.

She’s also part of the group of eight WNBA players and USA Basketball stars who are training and playing a college barnstorming tour in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She has yet to play a game and will now be out officially ruled out for the final exhibition against Louisville and Olympic qualifying in Serbia beginning Feb. 6. She could return for the training sessions around the time of the NCAA Final Four in New Orleans.

The Mystics will have to make some decisions about their roster this offseason with Delle Donne, 27-year-old Finals MVP Emma Meesseman and 33-year-old veteran point guard Kristi Toliver officially unrestricted free agents. All three played on max contracts in 2019. Teams could begin negotiating with their own players Tuesday. Deals and signed contracts can’t be finalized until Feb. 10.

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