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updated: 6/27/2014 7:09 PM

Delle Donne, Catchings fight illness, injury

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  • Elena Delle Donne has returned to Delaware to receive treatment for a Lyme Disease flare-up, and when she will return to the Chicago Sky is uncertain.

      Elena Delle Donne has returned to Delaware to receive treatment for a Lyme Disease flare-up, and when she will return to the Chicago Sky is uncertain.
    Associated Press

  • Tamika Catchings has not played for the Indiana Fever this season because of injuries.

      Tamika Catchings has not played for the Indiana Fever this season because of injuries.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

Besides championships, fame and fortune, there's probably nothing more important to elite athletes than their "own terms."

In other words, they want to dictate where they go, how long they stay and when they finally say goodbye for good.

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No one wants to be pushed around -- or worse yet -- pushed out by someone or something else.

Just ask Chicago Sky forward Elena Delle Donne, who's got to be wondering if she will ultimately get to navigate her WNBA career on her terms, or if her Lyme Disease and its nasty flare-ups will have the final say.

Delle Donne left the Sky on Friday to return home to Delaware so that she can continue to seek treatment for her current Lyme flare-up. She has missed six games already this season and there is no timetable for her return.

Meanwhile, Indiana Fever forward and former Chicago suburbanite Tamika Catchings has been fighting her own debilitating demon this season, which has led to some understandable questions about her "terms."

"I came in here in street clothes and people are like, 'Are you retired?' And I'm like 'Dang!' " Catchings said with a laugh after the Fever defeated the Sky at Allstate Arena last week. "I know I haven't played in a while, but I'm not retired. Not that I know of anyway.

"I don't want to be retired. Not right now."

Catchings, who led Stevenson High School to a state championship in 1995, is about to turn 35 and is in her 14th WNBA season. From her knee, to her foot, to her Achilles tendon, to the aching back that has kept her from playing a single second of basketball this summer, she has been hampered by her fair share of major injuries over the course of her career.

Yet, Catchings is determined to get healthy again and keep her career going. Her "terms" don't include retirement in the foreseeable future.

"Not at all," Catchings said without hesitation.

Catchings, already a three-time Olympic gold medalist, is interested in playing in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics and would like to continue her WNBA career for at least that long.

"Lord willing, if everything works out and my body comes back to 100 percent, I want to keep playing and go for it (a gold medal) again," Catchings said. "I thought (London in 2012) was going to be it. But when (Phoenix Mercury guard) Diana (Taurasi) was telling everyone after we won that she and (Seattle Storm guard) Sue Bird and I were going to come back for one more (Olympics), I was like, 'We are?' But when I thought about it, I decided I wanted to go for one more, too.

"It's hard (to say goodbye), especially if your body is still up for it. It's different if you're at the end of the road and everything is falling apart and you're trying to hang on. I'm not trying to hang on. Once my back gets better, I'll be fine."

Catchings, who makes a strict commitment to her health, nutrition and fitness, has a history of bouncing back well. She's come back from injuries to win championships and player of the year awards multiple times.

Over her career, Catchings has checked off nearly every box. She's a high school state champion, an NCAA national champion, and a WNBA champion. She was Ms. Basketball in Illinois, was an All-American at Tennessee and was named the WNBA most valuable player in 2011. She might be a four-time Olympic gold medalist two years from now.

When Catchings finally stops checking off boxes, ideally on her own terms, she wants to build her own team. She'd like to be a basketball general manager someday.

"At first, I thought I wanted to be an owner, but someone told me, 'Be a GM first to see how you like it,'" Catchings said. "I like that idea. I'm really intrigued by the idea of putting together teams and seeing how professional they can be. It's all a puzzle and being able to pull all that together seems interesting to me.

"I also want to get married and have kids and do the normal stuff. I really want to do that, too."

Just not right now, of course. Catchings plans to get to all that other stuff on her own terms.

• Patricia Babcock McGraw has covered the Chicago Sky since its inception in 2006. She is a sideline reporter for Sky television broadcasts and can be reached at pbabcock@dailyherald.com. Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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