WNBA Finals leave a huge question mark for Team USA as the FIBA World Cup nears
Elena Delle Donne may or may not participate in the FIBA World Cup.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The fortunate thing for the United States Women's National Basketball Team is the final roster for the 2018 FIBA Women's World Cup likely will not have to be submitted until a day before the start of the competition on Sept. 22.
That last minute decision, however, still does not guarantee that Team USA will have the services of Washington Mystics star and 2015 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne and Seattle Storm and 2018 WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart for the 18th world championship tournament. Four-time Olympic champion Sue Bird is also playing for the Storm.
On Wednesday morning, the National Team will practice at George Washington University and then fly to Antibes, France for a week of practice and warm-up games with France, Canada and Senegal.
On Wednesday at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., which is about a half hour outside of D.C., Stewart and the Storm will take on Delle Donne and the Mystics in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals.
Even if Seattle, which leads 2-0, closes out the best-of-five series, there is no guarantee that Delle Donne, Stewart or Bird will immediately join Team USA for the World Cup, which will be in the Canary Islands.
The WNBA played a condensed schedule to accommodate for the World Cup and that means players in the finals, which could go to Sept. 19, will have no recovery time before the World Cup.
It's likely that the United States would accept three players with gold medals from the 2016 Olympics at the last second but long-term health is something that has to be factored in.
Delle Donne is playing with a bone bruise in her knee, suffered during the WNBA semifinals against Atlanta. The only way for it to get back to 100 percent is extended rest.
There is also the issue that the United States has been in training camp with first-time head coach Dawn Staley since Sept. 5. They beat Japan, 102-87, in an exhibition game on Monday at George Washington University.
Delle Donne, Stewart, Bird, plus Phoenix Mercury stars Dianna Taurasi and Brittney Griner have not been with the team because of the WNBA Playoffs.
An official with USA Basketball said tickets have been purchased for Taurasi and Griner to join the team in France. Bird and Stewart were in attendance at the game against Japan. All have given the impression they intend to play in the World Cup.
"Regardless of our experience or inexperience, we have to get better every day and implement the type of basketball that we want to play on both sides of the ball," Staley said. "From there you just fill in players.
"You never know who we may or may not have, so I want to have as many players as possible in case we don't have a couple of people who are playing in the WNBA Finals."
As the roster stands right now, two-time Olympic and World Champion Tina Charles and 2014 World Champions Odyssey Sims and Nneka Ogwumike are the only players who have experience in a major international competition with the senior team.
"I don't think any of us worry about who isn't here and who may come later," Charles said. "We're here for a reason because USA Basketball believes we can compete.
"When it comes down to it, if someone got injured we'd still be expected to go an compete for that world championship. I don't think that issue is on anyone's mind. We're all professionals. I think everyone here is confident they can get the job done."