WASHINGTON - Elena Delle Donne, pride of Delaware, hit a new frontier, scoring 45 points last week for the Chicago Sky. It was her second 40-point game of the young WNBA season.
Delle Donne got plenty of online shout-outs, but not everything was congratulatory. Somebody working for the Sky had the inspired idea of having Delle Donne read some mean posts on Twitter about her big-time game.
First, in the reaction piece filmed by the Sky, Delle Donne noted that the SportsCenter tweet itself about her game spelled "Della wrong," then she got to the reaction tweets, the first noting they would "rather watch professional lawn mowing."
"Guess we have no credibility since we don't dunk every play," Delle Donne responded.
She chuckled about the tweet that said she could start for the Sixers - "Why, thank you" - then burst out laughing about the next one that said "that doesn't look like a kitchen to me" . . .
"Welcome to 2015," Delle Donne said. "How does he even have a computer?"
Then she did a pouty face imitating a tweet, "Against what competition? I could score 45 points on them."
Delle Donne threw it back: "Let's play one-on-one, we'll see."
Advice to tweeter: Stay away. Nine games into the 2015 WNBA season, Delle Donne is the league's leading scorer (29 points a game), third leading rebounder (9.6 a game) and also leads in field-goal percentage (61.4) and blocks (2.6 a game).
What fans used to see in the old days when Ursuline Academy would show up in area gyms, what they saw during her time inside the University of Delaware's Carpenter Center, that's kind of what they see now, except now it's against the best players in the world. At 6-foot-5, Delle Donne is listed as a guard-forward but it's hard to really categorize her with a position.
In just her third year in the league, the Sky is clearly her team now. That was even obvious after Sunday's game, which hadn't gone well for Chicago. Sky players huddled up and Delle Donne did the talking.
Her message, Delle Donne said later, was basically that they had another game in two days, everyone had to take care of her body and let it heal, and think about how their defense had to be more consistent.
"We can't let these things snowball where you will just continue to lose," Delle Donne said was part of her message.
This start to her season had league officials scrambling through the record books. Through her first seven games, Delle Donne scored 221 points. The previous high for a player in any seven-game span was Maya Moore last year with 215 points in a July spree.
Setting back screens on the weak side, that's a routine thing for Delle Donne. Other times, she obviously knows she has to take on a defense head-on. A contested jumper isn't a bad shot for her.
"What I want people to have more of an appreciation for is not just the final stat line [but] how she's going about getting that," said Chicago coach Pokey Chatman. "It's the skill set in her head that allows the skill set in her body to come to fruition. She's recognizing different things and making a concerted effort to attack it."
It's always changing, quarter to quarter, play to play, Chatman said. You start with a system, the defense adjusts, you have to adjust back.
"That's where Elena is really good," Chatman said. "What teams will try to do with really good players is break their rhythm, so one minute it might be a switch, one minute it might be a double team, one minute it may be a push. Elena is making those reads. That's what separates average from good and good to great, being able to make reads within a play."
In her Ursuline days, it seemed unfair when Delle Donne would be compared with LeBron James. It doesn't seem completely outrageous now, in terms of their ability to see the game.
Asked for a self-assessment after Sunday's 86-71 loss when Delle Donne had 26 points on 9-of-17 shooting but Washington made 10-of-17 three-pointers, she said her defense has to be more consistent, which can help Chicago's team defense do the same.
As for the mean tweets, Delle Donne said it's fun to laugh along and call people out for how absurd they are sometimes, but she added, "It's just ridiculous the lack of respect that women's sports in general has. Women in business and in the workforce don't face that as much as women in sports. Hopefully, that will come along soon and maybe calling people out will help. We put a great product out there, we work really hard, we play great basketball. When people say ridiculous things without probably even watching the game, that's when it's a little bit annoying."
As for that game of one-on-one, Delle Donne said, "I won't even waste my time with him, to be honest. We have a season to play."