Sunday, June 26, 2011

What we enjoyed most about today’s game were the smiles on the faces of the Mystics players as the clock wound down to 0:00 in the fourth quarter. It’s been a rough season thus far for the Washington players (and their fans), but it got just a little better this afternoon, as Washington posted a decisive victory in the Phone Booth over the cellar-dwelling Tulsa Shock, 83-63, who came to our Nation’s capital winless on the road, and are leaving the same way.

While the Mystics got major contributions from several players, it was the smile on the face of Crystal Langhorne that made us happiest. Following that embarrassing loss last week to the Shock in Tulsa, Lang sent the Shock a message early (and often) that today’s game wouldn’t be anything like that one. Lang scored the first bucket of the game, and by the end of the first quarter, she was already in double figures. Lang finished with 23 points to lead all scorers, and her team never trailed in the game.

Lang may have led the way, but she got plenty of help from the other starters. Marissa and Nicky each finished with 13 points and a double-double; Riss grabbed 12 boards, while Nicky got 10. It was good to see Riss finally find a bit of a groove.

Two of Marissa’s points came on the receiving end of a highlight-reel behind-the-back pass from Matee. That one was definitely worth a second look on the Jumbotron. As for Matee, she finished just behind Lang in the scoring department, with 21 points. And she was her usual high-energy self . . . 6 assists, 4 steals, and 5 boards in addition to all her scoring.

All in all, a happy day for the players and their fans, in what to date has been a less-than-happy season. It was definitely good to see them smile.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Turning the Other Cheek

On Friday, the Mystics announced that they had received another medical hardship exception from the WNBA, allowing them to add an additional player to their 11-woman roster. Upon receiving that exception, the Mystics signed Joy Cheek from -- big surprise -- Duke University! Which means that on what is now a 12-person roster, the Mystics have 5 players from a single college. And three of them played together.

We have absolutely nothing against Joy Cheek. By all accounts, she’s a really nice person. And heaven knows, Lang – who’s been playing far too many minutes, in the BCs’ opinion – could use the help of another PF (like Joy) coming off the bench.

Joy was drafted by the Indiana Fever in the third round of last year’s draft. She’s a 6’1” Forward who played in 7 games for Indy last season. We welcome her to the Mystics and hope she does well here in D.C.

The problem we’re having is that regardless of what school she’s from, it just strikes us that 5 players from the same place are too many. Our readers know, of course, that the BCs are die-hard Terps fans. During the college season, we have no love for the Blue Devils. Period. The End. But as our readers have also probably noticed, when it comes to the WNBA, how we feel about any particular player has very little to do with where she went to school.

Yes, we hope all the Terps do well in the pros. That goes without saying. But we don’t root against the Dukies in the WNBA and we don’t cut a WNBA player too much slack (if she’s not performing) just because she went to Maryland. (Best example: we loved having Lindsey Harding on the Mystics, and miss her terribly.)

And another thing . . . call us crazy (we aren’t named the BasketCases for nothing), but come summer, we like our pro basketball to provide some variety from the college basketball season. So we really enjoy watching players from non-ACC schools, precisely because they are not players we saw a lot of during their college careers.

As a side note, as far as we know, Alana and Mo are the only Mystics currently unable to play, which means that 9 players were still available to suit up before yesterday’s hardship addition. Indeed, the only injured players cited in the Mystics’ announcement yesterday were Alana and Mo. To the best of our knowledge, teams have only been allowed to exceed the 11-player limit when they were down to 8 uninjured players. So was this an exception to the exception? Or is another player injured that the Mystics haven’t mentioned? Or have we missed something in the history of exceptions?

At any rate, whether this was an exceptional-league-exception or just a routine-exception, once the Mystics were granted the exception, we would still have been happier with a little variety. Nothing against Joy or the Dukies (at least until the college season rolls around). But -- 5 players from the same school on the Mystics -- we’re not overly excited about this. Oh well, guess we’ll just have to turn the other cheek.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


The Mystics fell to the Indiana Fever at home tonight, 89-80. With this loss, Washington's regular season record fell to 1-5. And with Atlanta's win earlier today, the Mystics fell into last place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Shocking Development

Before tonight, the Tulsa Shock were generally considered to be the worst team in the WNBA.

Tonight, in Tulsa, the Mystics lost to the Shock, 77-59.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sun Burnt

Prior to tonight, in the last 8 meetings of the Washington Mystics and the Connecticut Sun, the home team has won . . . every time.

That streak was broken this evening at the Verizon Center, as the visiting Sun defeated the Mystics, 79-71, in front of what appeared to be (on TV) a very sparse hometown crowd.

As they have in each of their three previous games this season, the Mystics fell behind early. At the end of the first period, the Sun led by 12 points, 23-11. The Mystics, once again, were forced to play catch-up. Which they did (somewhat), cutting the Sun's lead to 6 by halftime.

Nevertheless, for the fourth time in four games, the Mystics allowed their opponent to score more than 40 points before the break. And while Washington battled back during the second half to take the lead for a single possession late in the game, they couldn't hang on, and have now dropped to 1 and 3 on the season.

The Mystics' next chance for a "W" comes on Saturday . . . and it's a good chance, as they hit the road to take on the winless and hapless Tulsa Shock. This is a "must-win" for the Mystics . . . a loss to Tulsa would be really embarrassing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From Knoxville . . . Vicky Bullett being inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday:

Congratulations again to Vicky, and many thanks to Donna Parry for the photos!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Chicago Sky Spoiled the Mystics' home opener tonight, beating Washington, 84-77.

The Mystics dug themselves a very deep hole in the first half, allowing the Sky to score 51 points (to Washington's 33). Ouch. And while the Mystics put on a ferocious charge during the second half -- narrowing the gap to a single possession -- they just could not get over the hump and now drop to 1-2 on the season.

Matee Ajavon (one of the trio who had BIG games in Atlanta on Thursday) had another BIG game tonight. The relentless Matee led all scorers with 24 points in the losing effort. Kelly Miller and Crystal Langhorne put up 15 and 14 points, respectively. And Marissa Coleman finally broke out of her slump, scoring 13 points -- all in the second half. Marissa was a major contributor to the Mystics' not-quite-but-almost-comeback.

While the second half of tonight's game was exciting, it might be better to see a little more defense early in the games, even if it means a little less drama down the stretch. In the first half of their three games so far this season, the Mystics have given up 45, 47, and 51 points, respectively. That's just too many! If they are going to win more games than they lose this summer, the Mystics need to turn up the heat defensively on their opponents . . . well before halftime.

Next up for the Mystics: a rematch with the Connecticut Sun on Thursday at the Verizon Center. Washington lost to the Sun on the road last Sunday in the season opener. Thursday's game will give the Mystics an opportunity to avenge that loss and even their season record.

A final comment: before tonight's game, the Mystics unveiled their 2010 Eastern Conference Regular Season Championship banner. It was a bittersweet moment for the BCs. We were there last season, just as we were for each of the prior 12 seasons. And we cheered for the team that earned that banner. We were thrilled for the players for that franchise-record-setting accomplishment. And we were happy for the longtime fans, like us, who had supported this team through thick and thin. But as we watched the spotlight illuminate the new banner tonight, we could not forget that the two people who led the Mystics to that great success, Angela Taylor and Julie Plank, were not there to celebrate as well. And that . . . well, it made us profoundly sad.

HOFer Vicky!

Tonight in Knoxville, Maryland's own Vicky Bullett will receive the most well-deserved of honors when she is inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

As many of our readers undoubtedly know, Vicky was an All-American at Maryland in the 1980s who helped lead the team to three ACC titles and an appearance in the Final Four. Vicky played on two USA Olympic teams (winning gold and bronze medals), and went on to a distinguished career in the then-fledgling WNBA that eventually took her to the Mystics, first as a player and then as an assistant coach. These days, Vicky is back home in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where she teaches special needs students and has recently joined the coaching staff at Hagerstown Community College.

As anyone who has been fortunate to talk with Vicky knows, she is not only an elite and decorated athlete, she is also one of the nicest people on the face of the earth. And the students she teaches and the players she coaches now are as important to her as winning a basketball game ever was. We can't think of anyone more deserving, personally and professionally, of being called a Hall of Famer.

Congratulations, Vicky!!!

Read more about Vicky and tonight's Hall of Fame induction here, here, and here.

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Mystics Beat the Atlanta Dream tonight -- in overtime -- 98-90, on national television, to gain their first win of the 2011 season.

If you're reading this, you probably watched the entire game on ESPN2. However, if you're writing this, you actually only saw 10-15 minutes of this 45 minute nailbiter. Why? Because the BCs lost our electricity . . . not once, not twice, but three times this evening!

Fortunately, we had power for the last few minutes of the crucial 4th quarter and all of the extra period. So while we didn't see much of the game, we saw the most exciting part. And we did listen to Rebecca Lobo's wrap up at the end, so we have a pretty good idea what we missed.

Here's what (we think) happened: the Mystics got absolutely phenomenal performances from their new post duo, Lang and Nicky. Lang finished with 30 points and Nicky added 29! Plus, they each pulled down 13 boards! Wow! And Matee poured in 24 more points! That's 83 points from just 3 players. Amazing!

But it wasn't offense alone that made the difference. After the Dream put up 22, 25 & 28 points in the first three quarters, respectively, the Mystics pulled the plug on them in the 4th quarter, holding Atlanta to a measly 10 points. That defensive effort allowed Washington to pull even at the end of regulation and then put the game away in overtime.

So the Mystics have evened their record at 1-1, and have momentum as they look forward to their home opener on Saturday, when they host the Chicago Sky at 7 PM at Verizon Center.

One final comment: in the piece of the game we actually got to see, we confess we were quite impressed with the Washington debut of Kerri Gardin. For a player whose only practice with the team was today's pre-game shootaround, she put on quite a performance. In 21 minutes off the bench, Kerri recorded 6 steals, 2 boards and a block, plus 3 points. From what we saw, she seemed to be a major contributor to the defensive effort that turned the tide in the Mystics' favor. Welcome to Washington, Kerri.

After Losing Their Season Opener in Connecticut, the Mystics returned home for practice, only to face another "loss" -- even before tonight's tip-off in Atlanta.

Yesterday, Steve Yanda of the Washington Post reported that Alana was still sidelined with her foot problems and, to make matters worse, rookie Center Ta'Shia Phillips suffered an ankle/tendon injury during Tuesday's practice. Today it was confirmed that neither will play this evening against the Dream.

With Mo, Alana and now Ta'Shia all relegated to the bench, the Mystics were left with only 8 active players. So, invoking a WNBA rule for just such an "emergency," Trudi Lacey applied to the league office for a hardship exception to the 11-player limit.

The good news for the Mystics is the league office approved Trudi's request. And so, this afternoon, the Mystics announced the signing of former Connecuticut Sun 6'1" Forward Kerri Gardin.

No reflection on Kerri, but frankly, the BCs were hoping that Trudi would give last season's first-round draft pick, Jacinta Monroe, another opportunity to perform in the WNBA. Having spent so much time injured last season, Jacinta's never really had a chance to show what she can do. Plus, at 6'5", Jacinta could provide the Mystics with some height . . . and that could be very important tonight and down the road.

In any event, once either Alana or Ta'Shia is reactivated, Kerri (or some other Mystics player) must be released. So this is a temporary, emergency roster move only. But it means that the Mystics will at least have 9 players capable of playing tonight when they meet the Dream in a nationally televised game (ESPN2) at 7 PM.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

If This Evening's Performance was any indication, it looks like the newly redesigned Mystics still need some work, as they lost their season opener to the Connecticut Sun, 89-73.

With Alana in her all-too-familar spot on the bench due to a sprained foot (and Mo out for the season), the Mystics' backcourt struggled to generate any offensive output. In the early going, the young frontcourt tandem of Langhorne and Anosike kept the Mystics in the game, as the two combined for 19 first quarter points. However, the Mystics' guards didn't score a single field goal until about 12 minutes into the game.

Without backcourt production, and with less than stellar defense, Washington trailed at the end of the first 10 minutes. Connecticut increased the margin in each of the remaining three periods to claim the victory by 16 over the Mystics.

With their next game on the road Thursday against the Atlanta Dream, the Mystics need a healthy Alana, and they need improvement in a number of areas if they are to avoid an embarrassing loss on national TV (ESPN2). The team we saw tonight sure didn't look ready for prime time.

Friday, June 03, 2011

We Got Next

The 15th season of the WNBA kicks off tonight when Maya Moore and the Lynx tip off against Candace Parker and the Sparks in L.A. at 11 PM ET. We can hardly believe it’s been 15 years!

We still laugh when we recall talking with a couple of friends – not sports fans – who (15 years ago) saw the ads for that inaugural season, and spent time parsing the new league’s slogan -- (“We”-“Got”-“Next”) -- only to conclude this combination of easily-defined, recognizable words made no sense whatsoever when linked together. (We educated them. LOL!)

That summer, the BCs were fans of the NY Liberty; there was no Mystics team yet. We still remember “Every Friday Night” on the Lifetime Network. How we looked forward to those games! Webcasts didn’t exist. As for basketball bloggers? What’s a blog?

We’ve grown old and gray (or grayer) in the 15 years since (and this most recent Mystics’ off-season certainly didn’t help). We still love the WNBA; and we still love women’s basketball. But we have a confession to make: we don’t love the Mystics quite as much as we used to.

So you, our readers, should expect some changes in our blog this summer. A blog is a labor of love. Maintaining it at the level we have for the past five years requires a great deal of “labor” (and a lot of love to justify all the labor.)

Specifically, this means we’re not planning to attend all the Mystics home games. So you won’t get as much “eyewitness” commentary. This also means we may not stay up several extra hours after an evening/late night game to post about the game. And, as you may have noticed already, we haven’t blogged about every piece of Mystics or WNBA news that has crossed our path. But that doesn’t mean we’ll be ignoring the Mystics altogether, either. It just means our blog won’t be business as usual.

That being said, we do have some observations we’d like to share with you about the 2011 Mystics. So let’s get to it . . .

The Mystics just finished the preseason a very promising 2-0, but obviously that slate is now wiped clean, as every team starts the regular season (the games that really count) at 0-0. The Mystics open their 2011 season on the road: first up, they face last year’s Eastern Conference 5th place team, the Connecticut Sun, tomorrow (Saturday) at 7 PM. The game isn’t being televised, but (like all WNBA games) should be available on Live Access. Then it’s on to Atlanta on Thursday for a game that will be nationally televised on ESPN2, followed by the home opener at the Phone Booth on Saturday, June 11, against Chicago.

The Washington team that plays Connecticut at Mohegan tomorrow has a very different look than the team we all watched last summer. In addition to the (unwarranted) coaching/GM changes, the roster has undergone, while not quite a complete makeover, nevertheless, a significant one.

How significant? Well, of the 11 players, six are new to the team. And one of the returning five, Mo Currie, is out for the entire season following ACL surgery. Which leaves four returnees suiting up. And one of those four, Alana Beard, didn’t play at all last summer. So that means that only three players (and only one starter) return from the team that finished the regular season 1st in the Eastern Conference last year. That’s pretty significant!

Here’s how the newly redesigned Mystics stack up: At the 1, veteran guard Kelly Miller (twin of the much-loved former Mystic Coco) will be running the point in place of Lindsey Harding. Jasmine Thomas (rookie from Duke), who interned for the Mystics last summer, will back up Kelly at the PG spot.

At the 2, the good news is that Alana is back. But the bad news is that she’s struggled somewhat in the preseason. It’s possible it may take a little time before she’s the Alana we knew pre-injury. Alana’s back-up will be returning reserve Matee Ajavon. At the 3, look to see Marissa Coleman get the starting nod . . . not to mention another opportunity to display her talents at the pro level. With Mo unavailable, Marissa’s back-up will probably be G/F Karima Christmas (another rookie from the Blue Devils).

The Mystics frontcourt also has an extremely different look. Veterans Nakia Sanford (signed as a free agent by Phoenix) and Chasity Melvin (waived this week) are gone, as is last season’s first-round draft pick, Jacinta Monroe (traded to Seattle and later waived by the Storm). The only returning frontcourt player (and the Mystics’ only returning starter) is (BCs favorite) Crystal Langhorne. Lang will be joined by the talented 6’3” PF/C Nicky Anosike (4th year player from Tennessee) and two rookies (both first rounders), 6’1” PF Victoria Dunlap from the University of Kentucky and 6’6” C Ta’shia Phillips from Xavier University. A very young frontcourt, indeed.

Actually, with the exception of veterans Kelly and Alana, the entire Mystics team is young compared with most WNBA line-ups.

With so much youth and so many personnel changes, we view this team as a work in process. And the process begins tomorrow at 7 PM at the Reservation. We’ll be watching (if Live Access cooperates).

But, win or lose, the BCs aren’t expecting tomorrow’s game, or any one game for that matter, to answer the question that’s been nagging us as we’ve seen the most successful Mystics team ever be pulled apart over the last eight months. And that question is -- “Will the reinvented 2011 Mystics build on the success of last season, or will they slip backwards?” It’s possible it may take 34 games to answer, but that’s the question we’ll be asking all season.

Meanwhile, congratulations to the WNBA on reaching the 15-year mark. As fans of women’s basketball, we look forward to 15 more . . . and then some. So glad that we got next.