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Elena Delle Donne Only Remembers Titles. She’s Ready to Make New Memories.

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And so it has continued, with Delle Donne teams a lock for the playoffs by virtue of employing her, yet so far without the validation of a title to elevate her standing among the league’s greats.

Her game, if anything, is even more impressive in the playoffs: She has a higher field goal percentage over all and from 3-point range; plays more minutes per game; and even betters her 93.4 percent free-throw shooting in the regular season with a 96.2 percent rate in the most important games. In her three playoff games before Tuesday night’s injury, Delle Donne, 28, averaged 26 points, 13 rebounds and 3.7 assists, playing some of her best basketball yet.

But without five more wins this year, she won’t grab that elusive trophy.

“Unfortunately, that’s the way that people get judged,” Thibault said. “I don’t know if it’s fair or not. I think back to Malone, Stockton and Jerry Sloan,” he said, referring to Karl Malone, John Stockton and their coach for the Utah Jazz in the N.B.A. “As good a run as you could have. They played in the Michael Jordan era. So I think that probably she will be judged by that. Luckily for her, she’s got a lot of time in front of her still, and then we’ll get better too.”

What Delle Donne has created in Washington is a team that’s gone from league afterthought to basketball destination, which was a part of the long-term plan by the owner Ted Leonsis to invest in the team.

The Mystics are playing in the Charles E. Smith Center, on the campus of George Washington University, this postseason, before moving to a new arena Leonsis and the Mystics’ parent company, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, are building alongside the practice facility of the N.B.A.’s Washington Wizards. The vision is to turn the 4,200-seat arena into an environment similar to the raucous Smith Center, intimate and, now, with Delle Donne at the center of the furor.

Thibault could envision it, but gained more clarity when he finally landed the player he had been after since he nearly pulled off a draft night trade to get her in 2013.


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