Elena Delle Donne has to find more room in her increasingly crowded trophy case.
The Chicago Sky star was announced as the WNBA Most Valuable Player for the first time in her young career, one day before Chicago hosts the Indiana Fever in the opening round of the playoffs Thursday night.
”Sounds pretty crazy hearing that,” Delle Donne said Wednesday. ”It’s been an incredible season, my teammates are the ones that have the credit, the coaches as well. We had so much fun this year. Just want to keep it going.”
She averaged 23.4 points to lead the league and help Chicago (21-13) secure the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
Delle Donne also grabbed 8.4 rebounds per game – more than double her total from the previous year – to rank third in the WNBA. She also was among the leaders with 2.0 blocks a game and topped the league by shooting 95.0 percent from the free-throw line.
The 2013 Rookie of the Year, who had a career-best 45-point performance early in the season, received 38 of the 39 first-place votes from a national media panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Minnesota’s Maya Moore, who won the award last year, received the other first-place vote.
It’s been a good month for Delle Donne as far as capturing awards. She was announced as the Dawn Staley Community Leader winner for the second straight year earlier in September. The league donated $10,000 to Lyme Aid 4 Kids on her behalf.
Four-time NBA MVP LeBron James tweeted at Delle Donne after it was announced she won. ”Congrats to (at)De11eDonne!!! (hash)MVPStatus (hash)StriveForGreatness”
As excited as Delle Donne was to win the award, she has loftier thoughts after helping the Sky reach the finals for the first time last season before losing to Phoenix.
”The WNBA championship is by far the biggest goal,” Delle Donne said. ”That would be far the most amazing thing to bring home to Chicago.”
That quest begins against the Fever (20-14), who lost in three games to Chicago in the conference finals last year and dropped all four meetings in 2015 by an average of 19.7 points.
The Sky led the league with 82.9 points per game and averaged 95.5 against Indiana, which reached the East finals in each of the last four years. The Fever won the WNBA championship in 2012 and then swept Chicago in the semifinals the next season.
Tamika Catchings, who leads Indiana with 13.1 points per game, has appeared in all 56 playoff contests in team history. She is third all-time in postseason games played and is 51 points away from becoming the first in league history to score 1,000 in the playoffs.
"It’s 0-0 right now," Catchings said. "We’re a much better team than we were in the beginning from the last time we played (Chicago) in August. … We go in thinking about this time, this opportunity that’s in front of us.
"Nobody expects us to win anyway."