Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mystics down to final cut. Rita Williams, a relic of the Mystics' memorable (or perhaps should I say "notorious"?) first season, who played her way into training camp from an open tryout, was cut yesterday along with two other players with linguistically challenging names (if you wish to know who they are, click the link.) Officially, Rita was cut because General Manager Linda Hargrove and Coach Richie Adubato decided to keep the young rookie point guard, Nikki Blue from UCLA. In my not so humble opinion, Nikki was one of the true steals of the draft. Whether she'll make the transition to the faster more athletic game of the WNBA remains to be seen, but keeping her on the Mystics roster is a good gamble. Rita, though a real sweetheart and one of my long-time favorites, is an oft-injured journey-woman who's had some good years and some less than stellar ones. 2006 would be Rita's 9th season after UConn and while she may not exactly be washed up, she doesn't have nearly enough tread left on her tires to justify keeping her over a young 'un like Blue.

Now that the back-up point guard choice has been made, the final cut comes down to "...three forwards - Kaayla Chones, Nakia Sanford and Aiysha Smith - fighting for two spots, Hargrove said." Word from camp is that Kaayla returned after the off season with a monster game; Nakia, while the tallest of the three, unfortunately is playing with a broken pinkie finger; and Aiysha is back after a year away from the game. Unlike Stacey ("I'm so happy being retired") Dales (no Schuman on her new Chicago Sky jersey...hmmm, what's that about?), Aiysha, when she took a year off to spend with her then-fiance after he was drafted by the NFL Dallas Cowboys, always said she'd return to the Mystics. The questions that remain in my mind are whether that year off set her back too much, or whether a year living the good life with a multi-millionaire football player dampened her desire for the minimum wage grind of the W, or whether it had just the opposite effect of reinforcing how much she loves being a professional athlete herself rather than simply being in the supporting cast of one. This is a tough final cut. I don't envy Linda Hargrove's job on this one.



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