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Elena Delle Donne will not be in action on Friday night when the Washington Mystics take on the Atlanta Dream in a must-win game as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive. This will be the fifth straight missed game for Delle Donne, who is dealing with nerve pain related to her back injuries, and it's not clear when or if she'll play again this season. 

"She is probably not going to play at all this weekend," coach Mike Thibault told the media earlier this week. "And I'm not sure about the rest of the year yet, I don't know yet. Not great improvement."

The 2019 MVP missed nearly two full years due to multiple back surgeries but returned to play on Aug. 22 against the Seattle Storm. She finished with 16 points and three rebounds, and there were a lot of positive signs for both her and the Mystics. However, she noted in her postgame interview that she would still be taking things day-to-day because she was "unsure if the nerve pain is going to take over again."

"That's the concern," Delle Donne said. "But just trying to trust the process and know that each day could bring me different feels and vibes. I'm just gonna have to go with the flow and trust in my people to get me ready."

Unfortunately, that turned out to be prescient. Delle Donne has only played three games since her return, and none since Aug. 26 against the Dallas Wings. At this point, with just three games left in the regular season after Friday night's contest against the Dream, there's little reason for Delle Donne to try and come back. 

The Mystics could still sneak into the playoffs, but they aren't winning a title this season. And even if they were a contender, the fact that Delle Donne is still dealing with back problems and nerve pain after multiple surgeries means the Mystics should be as cautious as possible. Not only to try and make sure she's 100 percent for next season, but for her overall health and quality of life outside of basketball.