Mystics playoff push will come without Emma Meesseman returning

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Mystics playoff push will come without Emma Meesseman returning originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON -- Emma Meeseman will not be returning to the Washington Mystics for the 2021 season, according to head coach Mike Thibault. 

"The whole summer I thought and believed I would join the Mystics again after the European Championship and the Olympics, but it turns out the only right decision is to take some extra time for myself," Meesseman said in a Mystics statement. "I wish it was different because everybody knows I love the Mystics family. D.C. will continue to be my home away from home! I wish the team all the best and I’ll be rooting for them, like I always have."

All season the Mystics were holding out hope of the 2019 WNBA Finals MVP coming back to close out the WNBA season. With the Belgium National Team qualifying for and playing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she spent the entire first half of the season away from Washington. Pair that with varying coronavirus protocols between the WNBA, the Belgium National Team and travel across borders, going back-and-forth would have been a lot to manage. 

Since the 2020 WNBA season in the 'wubble,' Meesseman has basically been competing non-stop. After wrapping a first-round playoff exit, she started a season with the Russian UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Euroleague that October - winning a championship. That season was followed by Eurobasket qualification for Belgium, then Olympic qualification and the Olympics where the Belgium Cats finished seventh. 

Still, Washington was leaving the option for her to return. They kept the adequate amount of a prorated salary available to her whenever she would have joined. 

Recently, the team just welcomed back two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne after an intense back recovery. Even without Meesseman, the team is fighting to make a playoff push, two spots out of the final postseason position. 

"She gave a lot last two years to our team, to her team in Russia, and her national team going through qualifications, Eurobasket, Olympics, and it was such a tough ending for them, that took a lot out of their team, emotionally," Thibault told reporters on Tuesday.  

In 2019, Meesseman became the first bench player to ever be named WNBA Finals MVP. She averaged 17.8 points and shot an incredible 57.1% from the field (50% from three) to lead all scorers. 

The 28-year-old was drafted by Washington in 2013 and has not played with any other team in the WNBA. Throughout her career, she has missed time in the WNBA due to international obligations, including missing the entire 2018 season.