Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi are back. And Elena Delle Donne’s back remains the most worrisome body part in women’s basketball.
Delle Donne, the Washington Mystics superstar who hasn’t played a competitive game since 2019 due to the fraught, COVID-stalled recovery from two back surgeries, was jarringly left off the Team USA Olympics roster announced Monday morning.
It’s the latest reminder that when and even if the 31-year-old Delle Donne will return to the court remains in doubt. Though she is doing drills and some one-on-one work, there is no timetable for her return, Mystics coach Mike Thibault said last week, via the Washington Post. Delle Donne, a two-time WNBA MVP and 2019 champion, was part of the gold medal-winning U.S. team in Rio in 2016.
Bird, 40, and Taurasi, 39, are each vying for an unprecedented fifth basketball gold medal — and it would take a catastrophe from an overwhelmingly favored Team USA, coached by Dawn Staley, to prevent them from making history in Tokyo.
Here’s the full roster, with number of Olympics appearances in parentheses:
Guard: Bird (fifth), Taurasi (fifth), Ariel Atkins (first), Skylar Diggins-Smith (first), Chelsea Gray (first), Jewell Loyd (first)
Forward: Tina Charles (third), Breanna Stewart (second), Napheesa Collier (first), A’ja Wilson (first)
Center: Sylvia Fowles (fourth), Brittney Griner (second)
The New York Liberty, off to a surprising 7-6 start in their renaissance season, are not represented on Team USA (forward Rebecca Allen is expected to appear for Team Australia). The Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm have three players apiece on the roster; the Washington Mystics, Minnesota Lynx and Las Vegas Aces each have two.
Other notable omissions include former WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike, who has been sidelined with a left knee sprain (“Breaks my heart that Nneka isn’t on this team,” Staley said), and reigning scoring champ Arike Ogunbowale. Candace Parker, a two-time gold medalist who has declined to participate with Team USA since her snub from the 2016 roster, will work the Tokyo Games as a broadcaster.
The Americans, who have not lost a game at the Olympics since 1992, are in an opening-round pool with France, Japan and Nigeria, with their first game set for July 27. Team USA will play a warmup against a squad of WNBA All-Stars in Las Vegas on July 14 as the league’s version of an All-Star Game in this Olympic year.