Elena Delle Donne Discusses Improvement, Her MVP Season and the WNBA Finals

SI: You became the first [WNBA] member of the 50/40/90 club, you won a second MVP award and the Mystics set at least four league offensive records. When did you know this would be such a historic season?

EDD: I actually started off slow, trying to get [healthy] and get my flow back. [She injured her left knee in the 2018 Finals.] I wouldn’t say there was a moment where I realized, Oh, this is going really well. It was just focusing on each day and trying to improve.

SI: What did it take to get comfortable with your shot? How much help did you get from your dad, Ernest?

EDD: It was shooting with my dad—getting back to the basics instead of chucking it. Using my legs properly. It wasn’t mental. It was mainly just getting in the gym with him and figuring out the mechanics again.

SI: Compared to your first MVP season, which was with the Sky in 2015, what do you think the biggest change in your game has been?

EDD: I think I make people around me much better. Before, my mentality was, I’ll get the ball and I’ll score. Now I let the game come to me and I try to get everybody to their spots to make them confident. When you do that, it makes your own job easier.

SI: You turned 30 last month. How much have you grown off the court since 2015?

EDD: Yeah, I was certainly still young, new to the league then. I’m married now [to Amanda Clifton], so life is a lot different, and much better.

SI: What impact has forward Emma Meesseman had in the playoffs?

EDD: Emma’s a superstar. When she’s in attack mode, it’s so hard for defenses to guard us, and I know she’ll continue to do that.

SI: You had 22 points in the 95–86 Game 1 win over the Sun on Sept. 29. What would it mean to win a title?

EDD: It’d be huge. I mean, an incredible season doesn’t really matter if you don’t come away with a championship.

SI: How does last year’s Finals experience help you?

EDD: We know what to expect. We know not to make the moment any bigger than it is—just go in, execute the game plan.

SI: It’s been a big season for the league. There’s a new commissioner and a new CBA is being negotiated. How do you feel about the WNBA’s future?

EDD: There’s a different look to the league, a certain coolness about it that we lacked before, a new fan base that’s jumping on board. The crowds that we’re seeing, they’re much bigger, and I feel like there’s way more fan engagement. That’s all you can ask for.

SI: And finally, your nose has healed—do you just feel more comfortable wearing the mask?

EDD: I love it! That’s why it’s on.

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