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Hello Delle Donne, Mystics coach talks of championship

By HOWARD FENDRICH

AP Sports Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) Here's a hint at what Elena Delle Donne's addition means to the Washington Mystics: All of 33 seconds into the 2015 WNBA MVP's introductory news conference Friday, coach and general manager Mike Thibault used the word "championship."

So, yes, expectations are suddenly high for the Mystics, who have won precisely one playoff series in the team's 19-season history - and that was all the way back in 2002.

After missing the postseason by going 13-21 and finishing at the bottom of the six-team Eastern Conference last season, the Mystics underwent a major overhaul. That included trading for the versatile Delle Donne and adding free-agent guard Kristi Toliver from the WNBA champion Los Angeles Sparks. They also re-signed guard Tayler Hill, who was at Friday's event.

"It's just all about putting it together now. Teams all have to go through growing pains. ... You don't just show up and win right away. You have to go through those growing pains," Delle Donne said. "I hope we don't have to go through too many growing pains. We'd like to get that championship as soon as possible."

There's that term again. As she said it, Delle Donne smiled and, for emphasis, placed her palm on the wrinkled red cloth with her new team's logo and website address covering the table in front of her.

Joked Hill: "Who's going to guard us?"

During his opening remarks, Thibault referred to the pair of players flanking him and said: "You're looking at two people that are going to hopefully lead us to the championship, at some point, that we're all looking for."

Several minutes later, he seemed to want to temper others' outlook.

"It's not a fantasy league. You don't just take those stats that each (person) brings individually and just say they're automatically going to work," Thibault said. "We're going to go through ... development as a team. You grow up as a team."

Earlier Friday, Delle Donne posed for photos with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall at his team's shootaround. She also chatted with Wall's NBA coach, Scott Brooks.

Asked about comparisons between Delle Donne and 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant, who was coached by Brooks when both were with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Brooks said: "I've seen her play. There is definitely some similarities there. Great shooters. Great feel for the game. Great footwork. ... She's a lot like, also, Dirk (Nowitzki)."

Brooks said he also talked with Thibault, telling him: "No pressure. Just win."

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Updated February 11, 2017

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