Mystics’ Kristi Toliver suffers non-contact knee injury

The Washington Mystics’ Kristi Toliver suffered a non-contact right knee injury at the end of the first quarter in Washington’s loss tonight to the Los Angeles Sparks Sunday night.

Mystics head coach Eric Thibault said Toliver is getting an MRI imminently but “it’s not great, I don’t think. We’re not expecting good news.

“It’s just crappy… It’s pretty devastating.”

The veteran guard had to be carried off the floor following the injury and several Mystics players were emotional on the sideline.

Toliver, 36, has only appeared in 11 games for the Mystics this season, previously being sidelined most of the summer due to plantar fasciitis. She also played in just 11 games in 2022 and 19 in 2021 largely due to injuries.

“I’m not going to lie. Emotionally, I was shot,” forward Elena Delle Donne said about the aftermath of Toliver’s injury. “You try to do the whole thing where you want to rally for her, but we were sick. What she’s been through with her foot, how much she’s worked to get back and she’s feeling good. She’s talking about even next year and all those things. To see something like that happen at this point in her career, just sucks. She’s a GOAT and she’s such a great person, so it’s brutal.”

Added guard Brittney Sykes: “We literally could not huddle and pray, like we tried to pray and we barely could make it through the prayer because of how hurt we were.”

Toliver returned to D.C. in free agency this past offseason, her second stint with the Mystics after being part of their 2019 championship winning squad. She’s spent the bulk of her career with the Sparks, with whom she also won a championship in 2016, after being drafted No. 3 overall by the Chicago Sky in 2009.

“Obviously our team changed the year we brought her and Elena here, her first go around here [in 2017],” Thibault said. “We don’t have a championship without Kristi.”

Toliver — who also won a national championship with Maryland in 2006 — is a three-time WNBA All-Star (2013, 2018, 2019) and made the 2012 all-WNBA second team, the same season she won Most Improved Player. She’s also known for her experience as an assistant coach in the NBA for the Washington Wizards and the Dallas Mavericks, and for taking on a sort of coaching presence for the Mystics, too.

“It’s much more than just ‘okay, she’s a player’s coach,’ like she’s a player’s player too,” Sykes said. “And she knows how to get to us when maybe we can’t get to each other. So to have that missing, I mean you saw it, we all broke down. This s— broke our hearts because of how crucial she is to us. She’s a quiet assassin. She don’t say much, but when she opens her mouth it’s like ‘s—, shut up and listen.'”

The Mystics have been slammed with injuries this season, with starters Delle Donne, Shakira Austin and Ariel Atkins all missing significant time. Austin and Atkins were sidelined again Sunday after aggravating a hip injury and suffering a nasal fracture, respectively, in Friday’s game.

Washington would have secured a spot in the playoffs with a win Sunday and is still hoping to make the postseason with a week remaining in the regular season.

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