It’s been a frustrating month for Elena Delle Donne.
Chicago’s star forward has been sidelined with a recurrence of Lyme disease that’s forced her to miss 17 of the Sky’s last 18 games.
She’ll make her return to the lineup Thursday night when Chicago hosts New York in a key Eastern Conference matchup. Delle Donne said she’s not feeling 100 percent yet, but is good enough to be back on the court.
“I’ve gone through this before twice in college and it wasn’t fun,” Delle Donne said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Thursday. “It’s not like an injury where you know you’ll be better in six weeks and then back to 100 percent in eight weeks.”
Delle Donne won’t start and hopes to play about 20 minutes against New York in her first game back since the team announced she would be sidelined indefinitely on June 27. She played briefly at Connecticut the day before she left the team. She then headed home to Delaware to receive treatment.
“I know I’ll be a bit rusty and honestly I still feel some of the symptoms, but I know I’m ready to go,” Delle Donne said.
Sky coach Pokey Chatman said she’ll monitor Delle Donne, hoping to play her for a few minutes at a time to gauge how the reigning rookie of the year is feeling.
“I hope to get her about 3 or 4 minutes at a time and go from there,” Chatman said. “Every time she comes out of the game, she’ll talk to the trainer and my assistants to see how she’s doing.”
Unlike many players in the league who play overseas in the winter, Delle Donne spent that time in Chicago to help grow the Sky’s fan base. She felt the best she’s been in a long time and the 25-year-old started to wean off some of her medication. That may have caused the recurrence.
“I don’t want to be on medication my whole life and unfortunately that allowed some of the symptoms to come back stronger with a vengeance,” she said. “As long as I’m playing, I won’t be able to wean off as much of the medication. But I can’t see not playing basketball, and the doctors said it won’t be detrimental to my life.”
Delle Donne said there were days in the past month where she felt “really bad.” She’d spend five hours a day in the doctor’s office getting intravenous treatment to help build her immune system, then go home and rest.
“It’s not just Lyme disease, I have other tick-born illnesses as well,” she said. “This time around, which was new to me, I had body tremors. I was shaking a lot and had a brain fog. You’re not as sharp as usual, not mentally aware.”
Delle Donne said the decision to come back was completely hers, and she felt no pressure from the Sky to return with the team slumping. The Sky have gone 4-8 without her in the last month to drop to last place in the Eastern Conference.
“It was 100 percent my decision,” said Delle Donne, who’s averaging 21.2 points this season. “They have been great about it and checked in on me alot.”
Chatman was happy to see her young star back when Delle Donne returned to Chicago last week.
“I was worried that she would have lost a lot of weight and wouldn’t have been feeling as well,” Chatman said. “We’ll make sure she takes care of herself and gets back to where she wants to be physically.”
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