June 20, 2023
Washington Mystics shut down Kristi Toliver due to injury, sign Abby Meyers
Toliver will miss at least two weeks with plantar fasciitis
Washington Mystics guard Kristi Toliver will not participate in basketball activities for at least two weeks due to a lingering foot injury, The Next first reported on Tuesday. Guard Li Meng’s contract was also temporarily suspended on Monday as she prepares to play for China in the Asia Cup from June 26 to July 2.
Those absences left the Mystics with just nine available players, allowing them to sign rookie guard Abby Meyers to an emergency hardship contract.
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The 36-year-old Toliver has played in eight of the Mystics’ 11 games this season, sitting out two games to rest and not getting off the bench in another. According to a Mystics press release, Toliver is battling “plantar fasciitis discomfort” in her foot.
The plantar fascia is a ligament on the bottom of the foot that connects the heel to the front of the foot and helps absorb impact during athletic activity. When the plantar fascia gets stressed or overstretched, it can cause inflammation and heel pain that typically requires rest to heal. The Mystics will give her that rest and re-evaluate her in two weeks.
Toliver missed her first game of the season on June 3, which was the second game of a back-to-back. Before tip-off, head coach Eric Thibault told reporters, “She’s sore pretty much every day after we play … We’re just trying to be smart.”
On Sunday, when Toliver missed another game to rest, Thibault said that she was “continuing to manage that foot.” She had been sore again that morning after playing 13 minutes on Friday and participating in the team’s walk-through on Saturday. “It’s just kind of the thing she’s managed all year,” Thibault added, “so we’ll have to just see how it goes from here.”
In her 14th WNBA season, Toliver is averaging 4.4 points and 0.9 assists in 11.1 minutes per game. She had a season-high 10 points on May 19 against New York and six on Friday in her final game before being shut down. In that game, Toliver became just the fourth WNBA player all-time to record 4,000 career points, 1,300 assists and 650 3-pointers, joining Sue Bird, Becky Hammon and Diana Taurasi. “I like that company,” Toliver tweeted.
Toliver previously played for the Mystics from 2017-19, winning a WNBA championship in 2019 and averaging at least 11.9 points and 29.5 minutes per game each season. Her impact on the stat sheet has diminished this season, but she is still an important leader for the team and, as an NBA assistant coach in the offseason, a literal coach on the floor. On Sunday, as she has done at times throughout the season, she led the first portion of a timeout while the coaching staff huddled separately.
“It just feels right having Panda back,” Mystics forward/guard Elena Delle Donne told reporters on May 26, using Toliver’s nickname. “She just brings a sense of calm and a confidence that you don’t always get in a vet. … She’s one of the greatest shooters to ever play this game … And then she’s a coach, too. So she’s got an IQ that not many players have and she’s sharing it with us, and it’s helping us get better all the time.”
The news of Toliver’s injury came one day after Li’s contract was suspended for the Asia Cup. Li is averaging 4.6 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 11.3 minutes per game while shooting 42.9% from 3-point range. But her playing time and production have increased significantly in recent weeks, and on Friday, she had a career-high 14 points on 4-for-9 3-point shooting.
Li is expected to miss four or five games for the Asia Cup, depending on how China fares. In the meantime, with two sharpshooters out of the lineup, the Mystics signed Meyers, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft.
Meyers, a 6’ guard and a native of nearby Potomac, Maryland, was drafted by the Dallas Wings but waived in the preseason. She was the Ivy League Player of the Year at Princeton in 2021-22 before starring at Maryland as a graduate transfer in 2022-23.
At Maryland, Meyers averaged 14.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game. She was an efficient scorer from everywhere on the court, including shooting 38.8% from 3-point range, and she made Maryland better on both ends. With her on the court, Maryland outscored opponents by 19.6 points per 100 possessions, whereas without her, Maryland was outscored by 3.7 points per 100 possessions.
“Let’s get to work @washmystics,” Meyers posted in an Instagram story on Tuesday.
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Meyers joins a strong Terrapins pipeline in Washington: The roster features three other Terrapins (Toliver, Tianna Hawkins and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough), plus two players who started their careers at Maryland before transferring (Shakira Austin and Natasha Cloud). And if Meyers sees game action, she will make it eight straight seasons that an Ivy League alumna has appeared in a WNBA game.
Meyers’ contract is an emergency hardship, which allows the Mystics to exceed the salary cap in order to have 10 available players. Once Li or Toliver returns, giving the Mystics 10 available players besides Meyers, Meyers’ contract must end. She will practice with the Mystics on Wednesday and could make her WNBA debut on the road on Thursday against the Chicago Sky.
Written by Jenn Hatfield
Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided and Power Plays.