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October 10, 2019

Elena Delle Donne

Kristi Toliver

Natasha Cloud

Washington, D.C.

Washington - 89, Connecticut - 78

ELENA DELLE DONNE: First of all, I'd like to apologize, we're going to be a rowdy bunch.

Q. Kristi [Toliver] and Natasha [Cloud], your team is one of the more active teams in the social issues realm. With that comes criticisms of shut up and dribble, shut up and play. I guess with a championship now, what do you think of that line of thinking that you can't do both at the same time?
KRISTI TOLIVER: Take it, Tash. This is for you.

NATASHA CLOUD: For me, "shut up and watch…” this is a league full of powerful women. I'm not biased in the sense that the WNBA has been at the forefront of all social issues, and our team has been phenomenal. We're in the most powerful city in the world. There's a lot of politics and issues that are handled here in D.C., so we'd be doing a disservice to a bunch of people if we didn't speak up and use our platform. Those people that say that we should just shut up and dribble, they should just shut up and watch us.

Q. What sort of role has Emma [Meesseman] played for this team? And she seemed almost like she was surprised to get the MVP honors. What does that say about her and what do you think about her winning tonight?
KRISTI TOLIVER: I'll take this. Messy is a very, very, very good basketball player, and I think coming from Belgium, coming from a smaller country where sport isn't everything, it's not like that big of a deal. The platform isn't as big. When it's here, obviously it's enormous. So for her, her humility, just being a good person, a great teammate, an amazing basketball player, she was the missing piece. And so obviously we're all extremely thankful that she was here this year.

She was the difference, and she has also grown because I've had an opportunity to play with her even in Europe, and won championships with her in Europe, but the way she played tonight in the moments that she wanted the ball in the biggest moments, and a couple years ago she didn't. And so that's a huge credit to her and her growth as a player and a person. So she was enormous for us.

Q. Elena and Natasha, how does it feel to finally win a championship?
ELENA DELLE DONNE: I mean, it feels phenomenal. I've like asked Panda [Kristi Toliver] about it, like how does it feel? What's it like? Panda, how can I get one?

But my goodness, this feels so good. It's hard to even put it to words, but to win this and win this with such a great group of people, I think that's what makes this so special. We wanted to win this for the person next to us. It wasn't about winning it for ourselves, and to get this done and to get this for somebody like Toya [LaToya Sanders], who's an absolute anchor for this team, that's what means the most, and that's what we're going to take away, and that's what we'll remember forever. We're going to remember this season because we were around such incredible people, and we absolutely adore being together.

So I'm kind of sad, like the season is about to be over, I'm going to miss everybody, but my goodness, we sure ended this on a high note.

Q. Natasha, in terms of fun, you guys have talked a lot about enjoying yourselves, a lot of hard work but still fun. Why was it so much fun?
NATASHA CLOUD: I think Elena just talked about it. We've created this atmosphere here where we're a family, where we enjoy coming in to work every single day, whether it's practice or film work. We enjoy coming in because we're around each other, and when you have that type of atmosphere, it makes this game fun. That professional level, it's really hard to get that. I've seen that with being here for five years now. I've seen it in different teams, but the last two years I've thoroughly enjoyed just coming in and working and getting better every single day, and it's mainly because of the people that we surround ourselves with.

ELENA DELLE DONNE: Yeah, I mean, no one on this team gives a crap about getting credit. Like the stat sheet, throw that thing away. Nobody cares. I know like teams will say that about themselves, but this is true here. Like as long as we get a W at the end of the day, that's all that we've ever cared about, and that's what makes basketball fun. That's like when you were kids playing, why it was so fun, and that's why this season has been so fun.

KRISTI TOLIVER: She's not trying to get any free agents by saying that. Just to make it clear.

Q. (Directed to Elena) Any time you get in the Finals, something goes wrong with you physically --

Q. Chicago, last year the bone bruise, this year the back is bothering you. Talk about what it means with what you've gone through this year injury-wise and in the past and not been successful, but now actually to get a title, not that it's worth it, but what it means for that. And secondly, I saw you and Coach had a long chat at center court, confetti coming down - just what you said to him. I know you talked before how important it was to win a title for him.
ELENA DELLE DONNE: Yeah, so I've contemplated long hours over why every time I get to a Finals something happens, and I think it's because I pissed the basketball gods off years ago when I decided to step away. So I'm hoping this ends this little drama that I've been having in the Finals.

But yeah, to be on a team that could carry me when I wasn't 100 percent really means a lot to just get over this hump and to be able to push through when not feeling great.

And then Coach and I, we've had this little thing through the Playoffs where we go up to each other and say, "Have I told you lately that I love you," even in bad losses where we're kind of angry at each other, we do that to keep ourselves going and to realize how much we do love each other, and how much I've trusted in him in coming to D.C. and believing in his dream, and him putting together this team that is just so great on the court and off the court.

So I also said I was very happy that I am one of the players and this is the team that was able to bring him something he hasn't done yet.

NATASHA CLOUD: And let me also add to that because I'm about to drop this bomb on y'all. Elena not only has one herniated disc, she has three.

ELENA DELLE DONNE: The medical staff is going to kill you.

NATASHA CLOUD: But it's so important because when you're talking about playing for the players to the left and to the right of you and being a leader on this team and being one of the captains and pushing through to win us a championship, that's a huge testament to both her and Ariel [Atkins] in this last series. Again, thank you, Della.

ELENA DELLE DONNE: Love you, Tash.

Q. Do you really have three herniated discs?

NATASHA CLOUD: Three of them thangs. Three of them!

Q. Elena, I'm hoping you can take me through what was your mindset. It seemed like in Game 3 a lot of it was staying around the perimeter. Game 4 was more of the attacking. Game 5 tonight it just seemed like it was fundamentally the way you attacked the game, despite three herniated discs. If you could take me through your thinking about that, how much of this was just knowing it was all on the line here and how hard it was.
ELENA DELLE DONNE: Yeah, we have a great medical staff, so they've been able to help me a lot in this week of just trying to get me to feel as good as I possibly can, so they've been huge just getting treatment every day and getting me the right meds, all that.

But yeah, I felt pretty decent today, and I also knew this was the last game. I can rest now. So I felt like I was able to kind of give a little bit more, especially on the defensive end, just trying to box out Jonquel [Jones], trying to keep her off the boards because she's a monster on the boards.

Yeah, but I mean, it just felt great to be out there and to be able to compete, and like I've said before, this team is so good and was able to help carry me through.

Q. This season you guys' mantra was "Run it back." Can you guys talk about how that propelled you guys to win this year's championship.
KRISTI TOLIVER: I mean, you know, when you have an experience like last year and you get to the Finals and you don't get what you want, you're extremely motivated for the next year, and so as soon as the buzzer sounded, we were ready to rock and roll, and everybody did their part, whether they were here in America or they were playing overseas. Everybody knew the goal and the purpose, and everyone trained that way. And so for us as we started the season, "Run it back" was -- I mean, it's old school. You're playing on the street and you're the next ones up. It's like you lose, run that... back. I'm very proud of myself for not cursing right there.

So we just embraced that. We embrace just the -- there's two ways you can go. You can feel sorry for yourself, feel like, man, why me? How come it didn't go our way? And you can regroup and you can really be determined for greatness, and this team was determined for greatness. It took five games, took four in the semis, it took battling injuries, it took a lot of resilience, fight, heart. We had the biggest heart all year, and we were the most focused and determined team all year, and we're just really proud of what we've done. But last year obviously certainly motivated us to be really, really focused for the season.

Q. Elena, I know part of your journey has always been your sister and how that impacted your entire journey, going to Delaware and then getting this trade. I know you can't share this with her probably the way you would like to, but what does it mean to have a championship when you consider what that journey has been like and how you put her first in a lot of ways?
ELENA DELLE DONNE: Yeah, I mean, Lizzie has been my journey, and some people have never understood my decisions. Others have. But she's been my path, and somehow she's gotten me to this moment. You know, it's been a crazy journey. It's been my own path. It's been different from everyone else's. I've just kind of believed in it, and you've got to follow your heart, and I've always trusted in her.

Another reason I can battle through injury is like she's been dealt the worst cards possible with her disabilities, and every day she gets up, she smiles, she laughs, she loves. So she's always just been my inspiration. I was talking to her all game long, like trying to have them miss free throws. Like come on, Liz, give me a little something.

She doesn't know it. She doesn't even know I'm a basketball player. But she's been my biggest motivator, and she's brought me here and she's brought me to this moment. So once again, I've got to give all credit to her.

Q. You guys have set a three-point mark in the WNBA this season and had four of them tonight. What happened in the fourth quarter when it was pretty much you guys and Emma? What was your mindset going into that stretch in that fourth quarter when you guys kind of muscled your way into getting a little separation without doing it the normal way?
KRISTI TOLIVER: I mean, every game is different, and Delly and Messy were dominating on the block, and that was a high-percentage shot for us, those twos. We will take those twos all day long. So if the three-ball is not going down, that just shows the strength and diversity of our team. You know, we can score with twos, we can score with threes, and tonight it wasn't the three-ball, and that just kind of shows the makeup of our team. There's not one way to try to beat us. We're going to find a way.

Q. Oftentimes when a team wins a championship, in reflection they say it wasn't so much that they wanted to win, it's just that they didn't want to lose, they hated the idea of losing so much. I wonder in those last eight to ten minutes where you guys went mentally to get those stops and to, as was said, go inside to win as opposed to shooting threes.
KRISTI TOLIVER: All I said before the game to the team was regret nothing. And you guys take it from there.

ELENA DELLE DONNE: And we didn't regret anything.

NATASHA CLOUD: I don't think in our minds during the duration of the game that it came up, we don't want to lose. Like Kristi said, this team wanted greatness, and greatness comes with that will to win and that will to push through and get stops and do all the little things that are necessary, and we did that on the defensive end.

For us the last couple of huddles those last eight minutes it was all about defense and rebounding, and the team that could do that the best was the team that was going to win.

Q. Kristi, you were the only one on this team to win a championship, and now you have another one. But what makes this championship feel different than the previous one?
KRISTI TOLIVER: What was different? The people are different, obviously, and I love these people. I mean, I love the other people, too. I think it's special when you are able to make history, and we made history tonight, and that just takes it to a whole different level.

You know, everybody says you'll never forget your first. I'll never forget my first, but this one with these guys and the relationships that I have with them, I love them. These guys are my family. I would do anything for them. So for me, just coming out tonight, I didn't play great. Like I mean, I made some free throws at the end of the game --



KRISTI TOLIVER: That's why I love them. They build me up. But it was the bomb.

Q. When you guys were down, what was being said in the huddle in the time-outs to keep you guys focused?
KRISTI TOLIVER: Hey, this mofo right here, she stepped up. We know she's from Philly, so she talks a lot. So it was like -- but that's what makes us, too. Everybody has her thing. She (Natasha) talks a lot. She (Elena) obviously does what she does. I mean, I'm like -- they're calling me now the OG or the Triple OG. I'm just an old head, so my role is kind of like whatever.

Tash stepped up huge tonight.


KRISTI TOLIVER: Just communicating, communicating, communicating, just saying everything that everybody was already thinking. And her growth this year has been to a whole 'nother level. Y'all are wrong for not making her Defensive Player of the Year. Y'all are all wrong for that. But she used that as motivation. And whatever. Tasha is the s---.

NATASHA CLOUD: Thanks, y'all.

Q. Tash, speaking of Philly, your junior and senior year, they were coming around a lot when nobody else was. Did that kind of convince you that, yes, I can do this thing? Yeah, I can become a WNBA player?
NATASHA CLOUD: Yeah, I don't really like personally talking about my journey a lot, but I had one coach in one organization believe in me when I transferred from Maryland for family reasons, kind of similar to Elena. You know, I understood that I was giving up this dream in a sense, and so when Coach T and Eric [Thibault] started coming around, it kind of sparked that energy back in me that this was a possibility.

This has been a five-year process. I've been trying to grow in all these years. I'm still not perfect, there's still a lot of room to grow. But I definitely take my path and my journey, and I'm proud of myself for where I am now to where I was then, because you would have asked anyone, no one expected me to be here. To be a part of this team, to be a part of this organization and to make history here, it means everything to me.

Q. You all worked so hard to get the No. 1 seed, to have the home-court advantage. You're all from the East Coast. Tash, you were talking about the connections with your family. But with that being said, how important was it during that surge in the fourth quarter to feel the energy from the home court crowd?
ELENA DELLE DONNE: I mean, it just felt like there was no turning back. Once we got that lead, they were just roaring. You could see it on Connecticut's face, that like, oh, God. They've got momentum, they've got the crowd, they've got everything. I mean, I'm not going to lie, we kind of wanted to win it in four, but now that we've won it in five --

KRISTI TOLIVER: Nobody wanted to win it in Connecticut. Connecticut stinks. You guys were there.

ELENA DELLE DONNE: I just wanted to win it.

NATASHA CLOUD: I haven't seen the daylight in five days in Connecticut.

ELENA DELLE DONNE: We've got sun now. We are feeling good.

KRISTI TOLIVER: We have blue crabs here.


Yeah, so it was great to win it in D.C.

Q. Marianne Stanley got a title tonight, too, and she is one of the legends in women's basketball, won an NCAA title back in '85, was on the Immaculata teams, really one of the pioneers. What has she meant to you guys, and she's 65 and getting this along with Mike Thibault?
ELENA DELLE DONNE: I love Stans. She's the post coach, so I can probably talk a little bit more about her. But Stans, she's just cool. She always has the posts' back. She's always a voice on the bench when things aren't going well. She's just kind of keeping our heads in the game, keeping us feeling good about ourselves, and then Stans is also like an X's and O's genius. I don't know if people know that about her, but she drew up in practice one day like 10 out-of-bounds plays --

NATASHA CLOUD: We scored on all 10.

ELENA DELLE DONNE: And we scored every single time, like wide-open threes or wide-open lay-ups. Stans, she's a phenomenal coach, and I'm not in the coaches' meetings, but I'm sure she has had a ton to do with this and why we're so great, why our offense is flowing so well. To see her get this is really special, too. She's an awesome person. She deserves it.

KRISTI TOLIVER: I think it's really cool that she was one of the first players that played in Madison Square Garden. I mean, that's just like -- to be around a person like that in the history of our game, and she just won her first title as a coach, that's just special, and so we're just really, really happy for her.

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