Friday, May 29, 2009

Not Quite 2 Weeks Ago, it was announced that Coach B's long-time Assistant Coach Erica Floyd was leaving for Louisiana to begin a new chapter in her life outside of coaching.

Today we learned that Assistant Coach Daron Park is also headed for Louisiana! This time, however, the move is coaching-related, as Coach Park will be moving up from Assistant Coach at Maryland to Associate Head Coach at Louisiana Tech University. At La Tech, Coach Park will be joining the staff of Head Coach (and former WNBA great) Teresa Weatherspoon. Congratulations to Coach Park on this exciting career move!

And speaking of exciting . . . a short time after the announcement of Coach Park's departure, Camille Powell reported in the Washington Post's Terrapin Insider that Dave Adkins has been hired to fill one of the two open Maryland positions!

If you've been staying current on your BasketCases reading, you should know Coach Adkins. Remember the Comcast video we posted earlier this month of Marissa Coleman working out with "practice players" (NBA Rookie of the Year) Kevin Durant, (Terps star) Greivis Vasquez and others? Well, the coach who was conducting the workout -- that was none other than Coach Dave Adkins! The very same.

It's clear from watching him at work in the video that Coach Adkins is someone who really knows how to get the most out of talented players -- like the ones he'll be working with at Maryland. Coach Adkins is also local to the DC area, having coached at DeMatha and Montrose Christian. His reputation and his ties to the community should also be assets to the Maryland program when it comes to recruiting in this very talent-rich DMV.

Welcome Coach Adkins!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

If you've been a Mystics fan for as long as the BasketCases have, no doubt you've ridden the rollercoaster that begins with early-season excitement, expectation, hope -- followed by plunges into disappointment and sometimes even despair -- far too many times.

So it's with some trepidation that we provide the following eyewitness report of today's pre-season Mystics vs Liberty game: "Wow!"

Alright, we know that those of you (like one of us) who couldn't get away from work or school today for the 11:30 AM tip-off are probably expecting a little bit more, so here it is:

From the moment the ref tossed the ball in the air until the clock expired after 40 minutes, the Mystics competed. They pushed tempo (our new PG Lindsey Harding is fast!); they played aggressive man-to-man defense; they contested rebounds and loose balls; they made the Liberty work hard to get their points. The Mystics played with an intensity on both ends of the floor that was exciting to watch!

Oh, and by the way, the Mystics won 74-56. Frankly, it wasn't the "W" or the score that was so striking, though we were very pleased with both. (Remember, it is pre-season. Players are still auditioning for roster spots or starting roles; minutes are spread and match-ups are different than they will be during the regular season.) What was striking was the effort the team as a whole brought to today's contest.

Nevertheless, there were some fine individual performances: Newbie Matee Ajavon, starting at SG in place of the still-resting Alana Beard, led the team with a game-high 17 pts, plus 4 steals and 3 assists. Our two small forwards, starter Mo Currie (13 pts) and rookie Marissa Coleman (12 pts) also finished in double figures. Rissa and Crystal Langhorne tied for game-high rebounds with 6 apiece.

But this win was really about the team. Coach Plank (earning her first win ever as a head coach, congratulations!) had the team conditioned, prepared and playing with what appeared to be excellent chemistry. On the sidelines, she was active, positive in her demeanor and seemingly engaged with the players. To a casual observer, it looked like the players were listening intently and soaking up what Coach P was telling them. A very good sign!

Of course, as long-time rollercoaster riders, we know only too well that one pre-season game does not a season make. Not by a long shot. But after getting our first peek at the Old, New, Borrowed and still Blue Mystics, we have to say that the team we watched this afternoon, looked -- and competed -- like a different team than the one that wore Blue and White last season. Considering how 2008 turned out, "different" is definitely a good thing! Wow, today's game was actually fun! How different is that?!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Warning! Do NOT Eat or Drink while reading Marissa's Comcast SportsNet blog! Failure to heed this Warning could result in choking, which could lead to serious injury or DEATH!

In the event you are home alone, please study the illustration provided of the self-administered Heimlich Maneuver before reading!

If, despite these warnings, you decide to read Marissa's blog while eating or drinking, the BasketCases' Legal Counsel advises you that you do so at your own risk.

Okay, here's the link. In other news . . .

The Night Afternoon the Lights Went Out in Georgia Verizon. Katie Carrera reports in the Washington Post's Mystics Insider (among other news -- all worth reading) that earlier today (Tuesday) the practice court at the Phone Booth was inexplicably plunged into darkness a half-hour before the scheduled end of this afternoon's practice. Coach Plank had no choice but to conclude the session early. Two-a-days, only a single day off since the start of training camp . . . hmmm, the BasketCases are wondering if any players happened to be spotted lurking around the circuit breaker panel just prior to this mysterious "lights out."

Going to the Dogs. Boston, Hen, Chloe, Mr. Sawyer, Redd, Sleepy, Biggie, Scout . . . just some of the dogs belonging to owning Mystics players and coaches this season. DC could possibly be the most dog-on team in the WNBA! Assistant Coach Trudy Lacey blogged today about her newest family member, Scout, and the "pack" mentality of the Mystics team. As out-and-proud dog-lovers, we hope to hear more from the team about their championship-caliber "canine roster".

Don't Forget: The Mystics' second (and final) pre-season game (against the NY Liberty) is this Thursday at 11:30 AM at the (hopefully well-lit) Phone Booth. Wondering how you can get away on a work day? The BasketCases have two words of advice: Root Canal.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

5 Days into Training Camp, this morning the Mystics scrimmaged played against their first WNBA opponent of the 2009 season at Madison Square Garden.

The result? The Mystics lost to the Liberty, 77-71.

0-1 in the preseason. Cause for concern? Well, as they say in New Yawk, fugetaboudit! In 2008 the Mystics finished the preseason with a perfect 3-0 record, and we all remember what a predictor of regular season success that turned out to be!

Judging from the boxscore (and that's all we've got), DC competed pretty well against New York, despite the fact that Alana Beard didn't play. In the plus column, new Mystics Lindsey Harding (11 pts, 3 rbs) and Marissa Coleman (7 pts, 7 rbs, 2 blks) both had very respectable debuts. Also in the plus column, 3 other Mystics finished in double figures: Nakia Sanford posted a game-high 17 pts (and 8 rbs), while Crystal Langhorne was close behind with 15 pts (and 6 rbs), and Mo Currie finished with 12 points (10 of them from the FT line).

There were a couple of negatives, however. In the battle for the back-up PG position, both Nikki Blue and Kiesha Brown failed to score in their limited minutes, and Blue had problems with fouling and turnovers. And Mo Currie also had problems with fouls . . . she picked up her 6th and fouled out of the game after playing about 26 minutes.

Not much more to say . . . preseason games aren't that important in and of themselves. But what is important is the feedback provided to the coaches and GM on how the team and individual players are performing. Games like these allow the coaching staff to take a few readings -- check the wind conditions, barometric pressure, and see if any dark clouds are lingering overhead. Like the work on the practice court tomorrow, they are simply another way of preparing the team for the games that count.

The Mystics have one more preseason outing: next Thursday (against the Liberty again) at 11:30 AM at the Verizon Center. After that, it all begins for real.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

No Shortcuts.

After 4 days of training camp, the Mystics are about to face their first non-Mystics competition. The team "Amtraked" to NYC today following their morning practice. And tomorrow morning (Thursday) they will play a scrimmage preseason game against the New York Liberty at Madison Square Garden at 11 AM.

Though the Mystics' nominal opponent may be the Liberty, Katie Carrera's article posted this evening on (which also includes a great video interview with Marissa Coleman) confirms that several of the Mystics players are actually battling their own training camp teammates either for a roster spot or a starting position on this season's team.

Katie also confirms that this year's camp is quite a bit more demanding than summer camps of the past.
"It's a complete 180-degree difference from last year to this year," said Monique Currie, who will compete against rookie Marissa Coleman for playing time. "From the way things are run and operated but just the demands this staff has for us every day. To step on every line, finish every drill, we can't get away with short cuts."
No shortcuts, more competition . . . all good.

(Speaking of "No Shortcuts" . . . Ed Viesturs is a pretty interesting guy, and his book is well worth adding to your summer reading list.)
* * * * * * *
Thursday Morning Update . . . Mike Fratto of the Washington Times also checks in from the Mystics' training camp.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Meet the Press

With WNBA Training Camp set to open tomorrow, it was "Media Day" yesterday for the 2009 Mystics, as players, coaches, and front office personnel posed for "glam" shots and talked with reporters.

We really enjoyed reading Mike Fratto's article (link here) in the Washington Times -- not only for its focus on how competitive training camp will be (only 11 can make the final roster), but also for what it revealed about the mindset of those involved. The quotes from new GM Angela Tayor and new Head Coach Julie Plank reinforced our perception (that we've blogged about earlier) that the franchise at last has talented professionals in place who have a plan for turning the Mystics -- in time (don't expect any single-season miracles!) -- into a successful franchise.

And the extra competiveness of training camp hasn't been lost on the players either. Example: this from Mo Currie . . .
". . . . you've got to challenge yourself. That's the way you get better. And then to know your job is on the line too, I know that will bring out a lot more in people who are just comfortable in their situation."
That's right, Mo. Don't let up and don't get too comfortable . . . there's a certain rookie who could be gaining on you!

In the Washington Post, Kathy Orton's article focuses on the decision by former Mystic Chasity Melvin to return to a team that's had little in the way of success. Chas tells Orton that Angela and Julie wooed her back to the Mystics because "I like their goals and their vision for the team."

Finally, we'd like to give a shout out to NBAE/Getty photographer Ned Dishman, who took some wonderful pics on Friday (link to photo gallery here). Our favorite is Photo No. 7. What do all those smiling players and coaches have in common? Easy question. . . the answer should be obvious!

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases

Friday, May 15, 2009

Comings and Goings

The Terps announced today that Coach B's longtime Assistant, Erica Floyd, has resigned to "pursue other opportunities outside of coaching in Louisiana." Coach Floyd has been an Assistant to Coach B for all 7 years at Maryland, and the two were colleagues for years before that. It's clear from Coach B's statement in the press release that Erica will truly be missed:
"Erica is always going to be a part of the Maryland family," Frese said. "She's meant so much to us and is more than just a co worker. We've been through seemingly everything together - from being new assistants in the Mid-American Conference, to building the Maryland program. My kids have fallen asleep in her arms. We're in a profession that doesn't leave much time for a personal life and I know that she is very much a family person. Because of that, I'm very happy for her that she can leave on her own terms and start an incredible new chapter in her life."
We second Coach Frese in wishing Coach Floyd all the best in her new endeavors. We, and we're certain, many other fans, will miss her too.

Another Going . . . this one from the WNBA ranks: All-Star center Yolanda Griffith, who began her stellar pro career in the ABL, who won a championship with the Sacramento Monarchs, and who, this season, signed with the Indiana Fever, anounced today that this season will be her last. With Lisa Leslie already having announced that she will retire at the end of the season, that's two of the game's all-time greats who will be hanging up their basketball shoes in just a few months. This summer will be your last opportunity to catch Yo and LL when their teams play the Mystics at the Phone Booth.

And for those of us who were worried that we might not get to see Coco Miller play again, we have some good news. Hopefully, we'll all get to say hello to her again as early as the Mystics' home opener on June 7th. Coco, who was waived on Monday by the Mystics, signed today with the Atlanta Dream, returning to the state where she played college ball. The move also reunites Coco with two of her former Mystics teammates, Chamique Holdsclaw and Nikki Teasley, as well as with former Mystics Assistant Coach, now Dream Head Coach, Marynell Meadors. The BasketCases are delighted that Coco has this opportunity to continue her career.

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mystics Waive Coco Miller

We've just learned from a Mystics email that the team has waived Coco Miller. It's clear from the message, sent by GM Angela Taylor, that this personnel move was a difficult one to make. Here's what it said:

Hey Mystics Fans,

Before the official press release goes out, I wanted to let you all know that we have opted to waive Coco Miller today. Due in large part to what a wonderful young woman Coco is and how much we appreciated her tireless work ethic and competitive drive, this was truly a difficult decision. I have been around the league for a long time and I can unequivocally say that Coco is one of the most professional and respected players in the league. Because of her professionalism and commitment to "team", she has earned the respect of her teammates, coaches, fans, and peers around the league.

As we look to compete against the best teams across the league, we are committed to building a balanced roster with depth at every position, and right now we are extremely excited about our perimeter depth. That being said, with an eleven player roster (and after drafting Marissa Coleman in the 2009 college draft as well as selecting Matee Ajavon in the dispersal draft), we felt that we needed to use a roster spot in training camp to take a look at another post player.

I'd like to personally thank Coco for everything that she has done for this organization throughout her eight years in DC. In my short time with the Mystics organization, I have quickly realized how much you all have grown fond of Coco and how you have appreciated her intensity and commitment to the organization, so please join us in wishing her the best as she continues her professional career.

Only 6 days until training camp opens!

Go Mystics,

Coco has always been one of the Basketcases' all-time favorite Mystics players. You couldn't ask for anyone who was a harder worker or a nicer person. We will really miss her and sincerely hope she finds a new home somewhere in the WNBA this season.

As for that "post player" that Angela will be looking at . . . . Perhaps the Mystics will be completing our rhyme: "Someone old, someone new, someone borrowed, someone . . . Schu?" Guess we'll know soon enough.

UPDATE: As we were drafting the above post, the Mystics issued a press release announcing the signing of Kelly Schumacher.

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases

Marissa and Some "Practice Players"

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Someone Old, Someone New, Someone Borrowed, Someone Blue . . . or Brown?

When last season ended, it was painfully obvious that the Mystics were in dire need of an extreme makeover. That work began last fall with the hiring of GM Angela Taylor and, in turn, a new coaching staff headed by Julie Plank. Led by Angela, the new brain trust made a number of off-season moves trying to remake the roster to whatever extent possible before opening day 2009.

They brought in someone "old," as in a former Mystic -- center Chasity Melvin, who (as we've previously written) will bring a veteran presence to the frontcourt. They brought in someone "new," well, actually, a few someones new, starting with PG Lindsey Harding, acquired during the winter in a trade from the Lynx, and, of course, Terps' star, Marissa Coleman, the Mystics' first round draft pick (#2 overall), plus several later-rounders. And they permanently "borrowed" guard Matee Ajavon from the (sadly no-longer) Houston Comets.

And just this past Friday, the Mystics signed (the colorful but non-rhyming) free agent Kiesha Brown, who, like Chas, also fits the "old" (as in former Mystic) category, having played for DC from 2002-05. So that's two popular Mystics vets back on board. We expect that Brown and Blue are now competing for a single backup-PG spot.

And quite a competition it will be. With the signing of Kiesha, and with those other off-season additions, the Mystics' roster now stands at a whopping 17 (that's after Laurie Koehn, Andrea Gardner and Krystal Vaughn were cut on April 15th . . . a very taxing day, and Crystal Smith and second round draft pick Camille LeNoir were cut last Friday). According to WNBA rules, teams must trim their rosters to 15 by the start of training camp on May 17th, and then to 11 by opening day. Which means that GM Taylor now has at least 2 more cuts to make before training camp opens, and a total of 6 more cuts to make before opening day. And that's assuming, as other teams trim their rosters to 11, Angela doesn't decide to bring in any other waived players for a look-see.

The BCs think that probably 10 players are virtual "locks" or "highly probables" for this year's team: Beard, Coleman, Currie, Harding, Ajavon, Melvin, Humphrey, Sanford, Langhorne and Miller. That makes for a very tough competition for that remaining spot. Assuming that Nikki and Kiesha are going head-to-head for that one position, this means that anyone else -- whether on the current roster, or a new pick-up -- would need to land a knock-out punch against a "probable" to gain a roster slot.

Whatever happens between now and the season opener, there's no question that while the Mystics' uniforms will still be blue, with the old, new, borrowed, and possible pick-ups off waivers, the one thing the BCs can say with certainty is that the 2009 Mystics are going to look very different from the 2008 team.