Delle Donne frustrated by thumb injury, inability to contribute

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Elena Delle Donne dribbles the ball up court against the Atlanta Dream in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

As the Sky’s season ended in the WNBA semifinals on Tuesday night, injured star forward Elena Delle Donne sat on the bench in street clothes, frustrated she couldn’t do anything about the final result.

A 95-75 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks prevented the Sky from taking another step closer to their second Finals appearance in three years. But the loss was especially hard for Delle Donne, who missed the final 10 games of the season – including five playoff games – with a thumb injury that required surgery on Sept. 13.

“Just sitting on the bench knowing I physically I wasn’t able to do anything was tough,” Delle Donne wrote in an e-mail on Wednesday. “Especially after winning gold in Rio, I wanted the chance to bring that championship feeling to Chicago.”

Instead, the Sky were doomed by a slow start in the deciding game against the Sparks, who advanced to the Finals against the defending champion Minnesota Lynx. The Sky trailed by 24 points at halftime and trimmed the deficit to 10 points in the third quarter before the Sparks responded with an 8-0 run.

The Sparks’ victory was the sixth in seven games against the Sky, who dropped all six games by double figures.

Sky coach Pokey Chatman praised her team’s tenacity as the Sky played through adversity much like they had without Delle Donne.

“When you’re going through that situation, you don’t think about it,” Chatman said Tuesday.  “So there’s not a collective pause or panic with the players, but to do that for an extended amount of games like we did, there were several games before the playoffs that got us here. So yes, I’m extremely proud of them, but I’m not surprised.”

Neither was Delle Donne, who finished the regular season as the league’s co-leading scorer. She finished fourth in the vote WNBA MVP after winning the award last season. Delle Donne wrote Wednesday that despite her injury, she tried to have a “big presence” on the bench as the Sky attempted to extend their season.

Although Delle Donne was listed as being day-to-day following her surgery, she knew the injury would likely keep her out for the remainder of the season. That changed her role dramatically, making her one of the Sky’s go-to players on the floor to helping any way she could.

“Every athlete wants to be out there playing, especially during the playoffs,” Delle Donne wrote. “I know it was necessary to take this time to get healthy so that I didn’t further aggravate the injury, but it was definitely difficult to be sitting on the side.”

Delle Donne appreciated what she saw from her teammates even in the 20-point loss.

“It was clear that my teammates were putting in a strong and complete effort,” Delle Donne wrote. “Everyone on this team is so passionate and committed. People stepped up where they needed to. Obviously the outcome wasn’t what we had hoped, but I am really proud of everyone for working so hard this season.”

Follow me on Twitter @JeffArnold_.

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