Saturday, August 27, 2011

Garbage Time

When the Mystics lost to LA on Tuesday, they were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, yet they still had 8 games left to play, nearly a quarter of the season. That's an embarrassingly early out for Washington. There's no good way to say this (and it may sound a little crude), but for all intents and purposes, the rest of the Mystics' season is garbage time . . . a bunch of essentially meaningless games.

Last night in Chicago the Mystics lost the first of those meaningless games, falling to the Sky, 80-67.

In this situation, some coaches might use these games to experiment a bit. Gain something positive from an unfortunate situation. They might give rookies and bench players more opportunities to play. They might experiment with some different starting line-ups or combinations. When games don't mean anything, what better time to try something new? Let's face it, the Mystics wouldn't be in this situation if what they had done during the meaningful part of this season had been successful.

But last night we saw the same old, same old from GM/HC Trudi. The same starting line-up; the same veterans playing big minutes (even though the game had turned into a rout); and the same rookie riding the pine for 39 of the game's 40 minutes. The same script the Mystics followed last Sunday against the Fever and last Tuesday against the Sparks was repeated again last night against Chicago.

As TV commentator and expert analyst Debbie Antonelli noted at the start of the Mystics' game against Indy last Sunday, the Mystics had only won 5 games in the entire season (as of that date, and as of now), and yet Trudi had used only two starting lineups all summer (then and now). And with Lang missing several games due to her bad back, one change in the starting 5 was a necessity, not a choice. The implication of Antonelli's remark was obvious -- if what you're doing isn't working, try something new.

Interestingly, new is what we saw from Sky Coach Pokey Chatman last night. With her team fighting to stay alive in their quest for their first ever playoff berth, Pokey made some adjustments to her starting lineup, and the ultimate result was a blowout win and a season shut-out of the Mystics, 4-0.

We also saw some new -- and very interesting -- behavior from the Sky coaching staff during a time out. After watching the Sky give back its entire 15-point lead midway through the third quarter (at which point the score was tied at 49), a visibly furious Pokey called a timeout. First she threw some paper in disgust, and then she and her coaching staff walked away from their team and did not speak to the players for the entire break in play. For the Sky players, it really was a "timeout." And did they ever get the message! Oh yes, loud and clear. When play resumed, the Sky went on an 8-0 run and never looked back.

Meanwhile, for the Mystics it was business as usual. Lang (despite a tricky back) continued to play lots of minutes. (Lang actually leads the league in average minutes played per game at 34.8! Matee is number nine.) In last night's garbage time blowout loss, Lang played 34 minutes. By contrast, Trudi's number one draft pick, Victoria Dunlap, has hardly been playing enough to break a sweat. Last night was no exception. Trudi finally put her in with 1:12 left to play. What was the point of that? How much learning can be gained by a rookie in that brief appearance in the garbage time of a blow-out? We have to wonder how Victoria is feeling right now about her WNBA debut season.

At the start of this year, Trudi made rebuilding the team with youth a point of emphasis for the season. In practically every post-game presser (even now) she reiterates that the Mystics' youth and inexperience play a major role in the team's struggles. Yet, as the BCs watch game after game, except for Jasmine, we're hard-pressed to identify any youthful or inexperienced players on the floor.

With last night's game being the first real garbage-time game of the season, we thought that might change. What better time to give your number one draft pick some actual in-game experience? What better time perhaps to try a new starting combo? But nothing changed, and now we don't expect it to.

The Mystics' loss last night was their 7th in a row, a season high, dropping them to 5-22. Phoenix (a team still very much in the midst of a meaningful playoff race) is the next scheduled opponent for the Mystics. Nakia Sanford and her new teammates on the Mercury survived a long, crowded, and uncomfortable trip by Amtrak to DC last night. So they're here -- despite Irene -- and the 4 PM game at the Phone Booth tomorrow (Sunday) is still scheduled to tip-off as planned.

* * * * *

As we write this, the first minor gusts of wind and bands of rain from Hurricane Irene have arrived in the DC area. We hope that, by now, all our readers have secured their garbage cans and anything else that could get blown away. Let's hope everyone in Irene's path stays safe and dry. The BCs have been lugging sandbags, filling water bottles and buckets, charging cellphones, Kindles and iPads. Flashlights and candles are strategically placed around the house. And, perhaps most important of all, we've stocked up on non-refrigerated essentials like peanut butter, canned tuna, bread, cookies, crackers, nuts, granola bars, and, of course, Nutella. How are you all doing?

Take good care, everyone! We'll catch up with you (if we have power) once we all say Goodnight, Irene.


At 3:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well stated BC's.

At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the BC statements - same old stuff. What an uninteresting and very frustrating year for our team.

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think realistically Coach Lacey should acknowledge to herself that she is way over her head with her jobs. She can't do both GM/Coach jobs and I don't know which she does worse than the other. I would like to see a change for next year but I bet it is unlikely because Trudy is likeable but on the other hand incompetent as a coach.

At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone else wonder though who they could get to replace Trudy? I just don't think alot of good coaches want to coach in the WNBA. Why leave your great college job for the WNBA? Obviously we lost a great coach in Julie Plank. But who could we get to replace Trudy? I think that's part of the problem. The only reason why Pokie Chapman is in the league is because of what happened at LSU. I guarentee she would rather be at LSU maybe tons of money coaching that the WNBA making basically nothing.

At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, Basketcases, here's hoping you didn't have to use all the preparations-but glad you had them. Excellent points as usual. Youth is to blame - REALLY??? We are not buying that any more!

Last season I would have braved an earthquake and hurricane to get to the Center - this season-not so much. I'll stay here, start working on drying out the basement - again-and watch from home.
Welcome back Nakia - aren't you glad you got away???

At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Daphne said...

Is Trudi living in an alternate reality or is she just flat-out lying to the fans when she trots out the "youthful inexperience" excuse? Seriously, how gullible does she think the fans are?
What a huge disappointment.
BCs, all I can say is I am so sorry for you two and everyone else who re-upped this year.
What strikes fear in my heart is knowing that Lang will be a free agent next year, even if she is restricted. Will we see the same "performance" we saw this year with the release of Lindsey Harding and Katie Smith? Oy!

At 6:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I was Lang, I would RUN out of Washington. This was an embarassing year for her. She deserves better. As for Coleman and Matee, they are likely happy about their year as they wouldn't be starters on any other WNBA teams. They'll be back with more of the same next year.

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I somewhat disagree about Mattee. I think she is a starter--she can create her own shot and finish at the rim. She just needs to learn to make better decisions at times. Her shooting percentage on her jumpshot was better this year. Coleman--I agree. I think my favorite player did not step up this year. She has to grow offensively--learn to drive to the basket and get a quicker release on that gorgeous jumpshot that she has (she has a great looking shot--it's just a slow release). The talent is there I think. If she doesn't grow her skill set offensively, she will have to start shooting a better percentage at the 3 if that's all she is going to be--a 3 shot specialist (like Powell and Crayville from CHI).

At 2:45 PM, Blogger fr mike said...

DCBC I agree completely with your blog.

At 6:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is Trudy selling next year's program and direction for enticing us fans to renew our season tickets? The rookie Jasmine Thomas won't be our answer next year. Mo Currie isn't either. Why would the management keep Trudy around because she is "a pleasant person". Who will renew until we have a plan for next year? We have lost alot of ticket sale money and breast cancer auction money. Let's hear Trudy's ideas for next year - I don't think she has one - scarey.

At 10:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mo is a huge piece if she can return to all star form. We will be a team with 2 all stars, not just one. Jasmine has potential. The biggest gamble and as it turns out, the dumbest move was trading our #1 pick to MN for Nicki. Wow--that's turned out to be a horrible decision by the GM/Coach Lacey. She should get fired for that dumb move alone.


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