Mystics General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault was the first noticeable face to walk in for Media Day on Monday, May 6. His first stop was pictures of course, a few alone and the rest with his coaching staff.
From there it was right to the media backdrop for questions. He mentioned how they’re a better team and learned a lot from last year while adding some reinforcements such as the return of Emma Meesseman and drafting Kiara Leslie out of North Carolina State in the first round.
Thibault even went on to say how the Mystics team needs to have a different type of focus. “Run It Back” is the slogan used for this season but Thibault mentions what needs to be done instead of solely on making the WNBA Finals again.
“I think that on paper we can compete with all the top teams and give ourselves a chance to go back to the Finals. But it’s going to take a daily focus,” he said. “We’ve talked about as a team, not talking about the Finals, but talking about the day in front of us and I think that’s the easiest way to be good when you’re supposed to be to take what’s right in front of you.”
And although Meesseman, a WNBA All-Star and superstar in her own right, has returned, the biggest concern is fitting her back in the mix.
The Mystics needed Meesseman to be competitive early in her career while they were rebuilding, but that isn’t the case anymore. How would her return affect the chemistry from last season? What would work to keep this team at a perfect flow to be champions?
Thibault did admit they got spoiled having both Elena Delle Donne and Meesseman together. So when Delle Donne went down with various injuries in 2017 and 2018, it showed just truly how valuable Meesseman is to the team.
“It allows us to play different kinds of lineups. We can play small, we can play big, and we can play people on the perimeter,” Thibault said. “You can move Elena to the three and play Emma, LaToya, or Tianna and you can cause different problems. So she has a lot to offer.”
Being here for a full training camp as well as a few games is awesome to start, but Meesseman will be gone for almost a month for Women’s EuroBasket 2019 for the Belgian national team which begins exhibition matches on June 6 for a tournament in Spain. The tournament itself is from June 27 to July 7 in Latvia and Serbia.
Thibault was aware that this could be disruptive. In 2017, the Mystics dealt with Meesseman’s first absence for EuroBasket. Ultimately, the Mystics were essentially three different teams due to that as well as player injuries.
To minimize disruptions from Women’s EuroBasket, Meesseman will likely come off the bench to begin this season. That said, it is possible that Meesseman could return to the starting lineup later because this move has nothing to do with her level of play.
“I don’t want to have one lineup and then have Emma leave and go to another lineup,” he said. I think we’ll figure that out when she comes back, so we’ll let the group who started last year be the starters at the start of this year. They have a rhythm together so that we can sustain it while she’s gone.”
It’s clear and evident that Thibault has a plan in store for whatever comes their way and can manage this team through different changes as long as they keep focusing on the day ahead.