Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Making the Playoffs"

As the Mystics head into the WNBA's month-long Olympic break with a record of 10-16, they nonetheless find themselves only 2 games behind the Indiana Fever for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. And while there is little question that some of the Mystics are playing with greater effort under new Interim Head Coach Jessie Kenlaw, the recent tightening of the race for fourth place has much more to do with the Fever's hitting a "midseason snag" than it does the Mystics' own play, as the Washington Post's Katie Carrera recognized in two recent articles.

The Mystics have the unenviable distinction of being the lowest scoring team in the WNBA, as well as leading the league in turnovers and having the lowest free throw shooting percentage. Also, they are one of only two teams in the league with a losing record at home (the other being the expansion, cellar-dwelling Atlanta Dream). In other words, the Mystics haven't exactly shown (to date at least) that they are worthy of postseason play. Perhaps that's why expert analyst (and BasketCases favorite) Mechelle Voepel joked this week: "There's probably no way to give the East three teams in the playoffs and the West five, is there?"

The teams to which Mechelle is referring, who seem to have a lock on the top three spots in the East, are Connecticut, New York, and Detroit (though not necessarily in that order). The Mystics have already played those teams a total of 8 times, winning only one of those games -- the just barely eked-out home win over the Sun a couple of weeks ago. Meanwhile, the 7 losses to those three teams include one of the most embarrassing in Mystics history, as well as some other truly disappointing games (including last Sunday's loss to the Sun). Granted, most of those occurred on Tree's watch, and the BasketCases hope that the Mystics will do better after the break under Coach J-Law's direction when they square off in a home-and-home against Detroit and a single game against Connecticut up at Mohegan. (We don't play the Liberty again.) Those three games should tell us a great deal about whether the post-Olympics Mystics, if they do manage to edge into fourth place, are really ready to make a move in the post-season.

In the meantime, right now, there is still much talk from the Mystics' organization about the team "making the playoffs." The BasketCases are very much hoping that during this month-long hiatus, Coach J-Law can help the Mystics regroup and finish out the regular season on a good winning run. If the team shows us when they return that they can truly compete with the likes of Detroit, Connecticut and New Yawk -- and can enter the playoffs through the front door (not due to some post-Olympics meltdown by the Fever) -- then yes, we'll be extremely happy to see them "make the playoffs" and continue playing in the post-season. But until we see that, then no thanks, we're not drinking the Kool-Aid.

Sure, in the early years of the franchise, simply "making the playoffs" was important, no matter what happened. Indeed, we were among the screaming, ecstatic fans in the jam-packed Phone Booth back in August 2000 when the Mystics, in their third season, did just that. The noise in the arena as we faced the New York Liberty was deafening. The atmosphere was electric. Never mind that the Mystics were bounced out in the first round without winning a game, just getting there was thrilling.

The Mystics have made the playoffs only three times since, and on only one occasion -- in that magical 2002 season -- did they get past the first round. More recently, in 2004 and 2006, the Mystics made an early exit, just as they did in 2000. So for this franchise and its fans, just "making the playoffs" by squeaking into fourth place and then losing to the team in first place is truly a "been there, done that" experience. Maybe that prospect seems entertaining for new fans or new front office staff, but it's not an experience that we're particularly excited about. Some other longtime fans have told us they feel the same way. Back in Y2K, "making the playoffs" was a big step up. But when "making the playoffs" becomes the measure of a season's success for a franchise in its 11th year, then perhaps the bar has been set too low.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Totally Eclipsed by the Sun

The Mystics played a competitive first quarter of basketball against the Sun today, down only 3 (20-17) at the end of ten minutes. But they ended that first period with a missed layup (which could have closed the gap to 1) and after that, the game went steadily downhill.

At halftime, Connecticut was up 40-29. Neither "franchise player" Alana Beard nor "No. 2 scoring option" Mo Currie hit a field goal in the entire first half, heading into the locker room with 1 point and 2 points, respectively. Meanwhile, Nakia Sanford (signed to a multiple year contract in the off season) played only 6 and a half minutes of the first half. She joined Alana and Mo in the locker room after scoring 2 points and picking up 3 fouls.

Things only got worse after the break. While the BasketCases and, no doubt, many others in the arena kept waiting (and hoping) for our stars to shine, it was not to be. At the end of the third quarter, the Mystics were down 66-45. At that point, AB had scored 4 points and Mo was still at 2 (in fact Coach J-Law sat Mo on the bench for most of that period). The final score was 82-60.

Only two Mystics reached double figures today. Team leader Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who shows up night after night, had 11 points, and rookie Crystal Langhorne, coming off the bench, had 10. AB finished with 7 points on 2 of 12 shooting, and Mo had only the 2 points she scored on free thows back in the first quarter. As for Nakia, she finished the game with 3 points, fouling out after about 13 minutes of playing time.

Former Mystics first-round pick Asjha Jones led all scorers with 27.

While there is no question that most of the Mystics are playing with greater effort under Coach J-Law, there is also no way that the Mystics will win games when Alana and our other veteran supposed scorers have games like they had today.

This loss drops the Mystics to 10-16. Unless they win all 8 of their remaining games (a theoretical, but highly unlikely, possibility), they will, once again, finish the season with something other than a winning record. Déjà vu all over again!

The Mystics' defeat today was not just a loss, it was a bad loss. It sends the team -- not to mention the fans -- into the Olympic break on a very low note. While we prefer not to be too negative, we also try to be honest. And being honest, we can't say that we ran into anyone on the concourse after the game who was disappointed about taking a break from this team or this season, nor did we talk to anyone who was particularly excited at the prospect of seeing them again in a month. As longtime fans, we find that very sad . . . very sad, indeed.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Escape From Atlanta

The Mystics got a much-needed road win over the cellar-dwelling Dream in Atlanta tonight, 81-75. Although there was a lot of scoring in the game, there wasn't much pace, as the teams combined for 37 turnovers and 42 fouls. The Mystics spent part of the first half and some of the third quarter up by double digits, but almost-perfect free-throw shooting (19 of 20) and some timely threes (not to mention 12 blocked shots for the game) got Atlanta close and kept them there; overall, the lead changed hands 12 times. Late in the game, with the Mystics ahead, the Dream narrowed the gap to one point, but the Mystics were able to hold on and pull out the win.

Mystics team leader Taj McWilliams-Franklin had a double-double, with team highs in points (13) and boards (12). Alana Beard, who was scoreless in the first quarter, finished the game with 12 points. Mo Currie added 11, and Bernice "Ne-Mo" Mosby had a big night off the bench, also putting up 11 points.

(The BasketCases were multi-tasking tonight, watching the nail-biter between New York and LA over on NBA-TV while listening to the Mystics game. The Liberty won that exciting contest in the closing seconds, 69-68.)

The Mystics return to the Phone Booth on Sunday where they will play the Connecticut Sun at 4 PM in the last game before the month-long break for the Olympics. Let's hope some momentum from tonight's "W" carries over to that game.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Markus: I see it, but I don't believe it.

Tyler: Go Aunt Nancy, Go Aunt Nancy, Go Aunt Nancy!

* * * * * *
Markus, the BasketCases can assure you that you're not alone! We're also seeing it tonight on ESPN2, but we still don't believe it.

To say we're surprised to see "Aunt Nancy" -- a card-carrying AARP member -- on the floor for the WNBA's Detroit Shock would be an understatement!

When the BasketCases first heard that Nancy Lieberman had been signed to a 7-day contract by the Detroit Shock, our first thought was she'd be filling in for suspended Detroit Assistant Coach Rick Mahorn. But noooo! Later we learned she was signed to a player's contract!

In an already unbelievable week, this is truly unbelievable!

Photo Credits: (Top) DCBasketCases & ESPN2; (Bottom) Daddy Cam

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

So Close.

In their second outing under Interim Head Coach Jessie Kenlaw, the Mystics played a very different basketball game today at the Camp Day matinee than they did in Madison Square Garden last Thursday evening. Unfortunately, the result was the same, as the Mystics fell to the New York Liberty, 80-73.

The difference today was that Washington played some good, competitive, team basketball. In fact, four Mystics scored in double figures: Taj McWilliams-Franklin (who led all scorers with 19 points), Nakia Sanford, who had a double double (14 points, 10 boards), Alana Beard (16), and Monique Currie (14). In terms of competitiveness, today's lunch-hour event was 180-degrees different from the teams' prior meeting.

The effort was there; the coaching was there; but sadly, so was the Mystics' chronicly poor free throw shooting (they made only 6 of 13) and their low percentage from behind the arc (21.4%). By contrast, New York hit 14 of their 18 free throws and connected on 43.5% of their three-pointers. Game, set, match.

The loss today drops the Mystics to 9-15, and with 10 games remaining eliminates the possibility of what would have been a franchise-first 20-win season. Indeed, with their pre-Coach J-Law start to the season, the Mystics are once again flirting with a losing record. We hope that will not be the outcome, but winning 8 of the remaining 10 is a big order to fill.

Next up for the Mystics is a road trip, as they travel to Atlanta on Friday to take on the expansion Dream at 7:30 PM. They then return to the Phone Booth on Sunday for a 4 PM game against the Sun, their last game before the WNBA's month-long break for the Olympics.

* * * * * *
The Charm Factor: Four Bunnies. Today was the team's annual Camp Day, which means that the arena was filled with thousands of color-coded screaming kids, all the way up to the rafters. (For us old timers, it was nice to see people in the 400 section.) And perhaps because someone thought that the kids would not make enough noise by themselves, Mystics Megaphones were distributed at the door. The kids were also given colored light sticks, which made for a nice visual during the team introductions.

The Anthem was decently performed by Leann Madtes, and the halftime entertainment was provided by one of the BasketCases' favorites -- Skyy Dogs. We thought it was very nice that the front office went all out on professional entertainment for Camp Day. The kids -- and us old-timers -- certainly enjoyed it. Let's hope we see more of the same during regular games when the majority of paying season ticketholders are able to attend.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Camp Day? No!



Reminder: the Mystics' annual Camp Day game is tomorrow, Wednesday, against the New York Liberty. Tip off is at 11:30 AM. Don't forget your ear plugs!

Bottom photo credit: DC BasketCases

Sunday, July 20, 2008

We Needed That!

For the third game in a row, the Mystics spent most of the second half playing against their opponent's bench. But today, it was because the Mystics had put the game out of reach by early in the third quarter.

Yes, that's right, the Mystics came out of the blocks on fire this afternoon, and by halftime were ahead of Western-Conference leading Seattle by a score of 48-25. Seattle was unable to mount any early second half run, so they conceded the win to the Mystics, which meant that for most of the final 20 minutes, superstar starters Sue Bird, Sheryl Swoopes, Swin Cash, and Yolanda Griffith were parked safely on the visitor's bench. The final score of this Mystics rout was 89-57.

The victory by the Mystics snapped the Storm's 7-game winning streak. But most important, it started new Interim Head Coach Jessie Kenlaw off on the right foot (1-0) and provided a hugely needed emotional boost for the Mystics, their fans, and their owner. As the final buzzer sounded, Sheila Johnson ran onto the court to embrace Coach Kenlaw in a joyous hug.

The BasketCases found it particularly gratifying that Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who battled so hard in the recent losing efforts, today was the "star" of this oh-so-satisfying victory. Alana Beard scored the game's first bucket, but Taj took over from there to lead all scorers with 22 points. She hit early and often, helping the Mystics build that 23-point cushion they took into the locker room at halftime. But Taj's big game wasn't a solo effort. Alana, who's been troubled by turnovers this season, recorded a game high 9 assists vs only 1 turnover! And Taj was on the receiving end of quite of few of Alana's dishes. While AB didn't hit double figures (Mo Currie with 12 points was the only other Mystics player besides Taj who did), she certainly contributed significantly to the winning effort. Seven Mystics scored 8 or more points; turnovers were down; assists were up. This was a team victory . . . make no mistake about it.

The Mystics' next game is the annual "Camp Day" game at the Phone Booth this Wednesday at 11:30 AM against New York. Obviously, we're all hoping that Washington can carry today's energy, focus -- and teamwork -- into Wednesday's game and forward into the remainder of the season. For now, however, we are just feeling very good about today.

Sunday Morning. . . . Game Day.

New Interim Head Coach Jessie Kenlaw makes her debut this afternoon when the Mystics take on the Western Conference-leading Seattle Storm at 4 PM at the Verizon Center.

Fortunately for the Mystics, the Storm's leading scorer, Lauren Jackson (who is currently the 3rd top scorer in the WNBA), has departed to join her teammates on the Aussie National Team for pre-Olympic training. But the Storm have plenty of other weapons, as the rest of their roster reads like the starting line-up of an All-Star team: Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Sheryl Swoopes and Yolanda Griffiths. The LJ-less Storm have already beaten Indiana on the road this week. The Mystics will need to bring more fire and focus to the court this afternoon to reverse course after their recent dismal performances.

Mystics sharpshooter Laurie Koehn is the subject of a feature this morning in the Hutchinson (KS) News Online. In light of Tree's firing yesterday, we found these remarks by Laurie particularly interesting:
Koehn said playing for Rollins was completely different than her first two years at Washington when she played for the more regimented Richie Adubato.

"It's definitely another good learning experience," she said. "My first two years, it was Richie Adubato, who has been around basketball forever and has coached it at every level, and just knows the game inside and out, and was an X's and O's man.

"Rollins wasn't one of those type of coaches.

"For me, it's one of the first times I've really played in a system that doesn't have a lot of structure," Koehn said. "Obviously, coming from K-State, we had about 85 plays in the playbook, we were very structured and it worked for us."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Number 10!

Unfortunately for Mystics fans, that's not only the refrain of a very popular credit card commercial a few years back featuring WNBA star Sue Bird, it's now also the number of coaches that the Mystics franchise has had in 11 seasons. To the surprise of no one who watched the game last night, the Mystics announced today that Tree Rollins has been removed as Head Coach. In his place, the Mystics have named Assistant Coach Jessie Kenlaw the Interim Head Coach.

The BasketCases had been hoping, as disappointing as the season has been up to this week, that we could make it to the end without a disruptive coaching change. But frankly, with this week's debacles against New York and Detroit, it was critical for the owners to send the message that this sort of basketball is simply unacceptable. We want to add, however, as we did in our post last night, that the problem with this franchise is not any one person or thing, and we hope and expect that this will not be the end of the changes.

In the meantime, good luck Jessie! And good luck Mystics!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Vortex of Doom.

For 40 minutes tonight, the BasketCases (and, judging from our conversations, other Mystics fans) felt as though we'd been sucked down and swirled around in the "Vortex of Doom." The Mystics came out this evening to start their game against the Shock just where they'd left off last night in New York -- playing noncompetitive basketball. Before you could blink an eye, the Mystics were down 9-0, and they were never, ever, ever in the game.

While the fans at the Phone Booth were being spun around, over on a WNBA message board (Rebkell), fans watching the game on NBA-TV were debating whether the Mystics would hit 15 before the Shock scored 50, that's how noncompetitive the game was from start to finish. At the end of the first quarter, Deanna Nolan had scored 19 points while the entire Mystics team had 12. Embarrassing. At halftime, Detroit was ahead 55-27. Washington spent a good portion of the second half playing the Detroit bench and still managed to fall further behind, finally losing 99-62. The near record-setting margin would have been even greater had the Shock starters seen more minutes.

Some of the Mystics played their hearts out tonight . . . Taj being the best example. She always comes to play, and had 13 points and battled throughout. And Nikki Blue, the only other Mystics player in double figures, was obviously working hard, even urging her teammates to "keep fighting" as she left the court during a substitution (she put up 10 points). But some other players (we hate to admit) seemed to have checked out early. Our franchise player was MIA, scoreless until the third period, while our (supposed) second scoring option didn't hit a field goal until midway through the 4th quarter. And when the opponents' bench is outscoring you, on your own floor . . . well, that is simply unacceptable.

Yesterday's game in New York and tonight's against Detroit, on top of an already disappointing season, make it very clear that there is something very seriously wrong with the Mystics. It's not any one thing or any one person, but something is very seriously wrong with this franchise.

There's been a lot of talk of late by the front office about what it would take for this team to make the playoffs. Playoffs? Forget the playoffs!! Unfortunately, the bar needs to be set a little lower. What we'd like to see immediately is basketball that does not embarrass the fans or the Mystics players.

Is that too much to ask?

* * * * * * * *
On a far happier note . . . The USA Basketball U18 National Team has been right here in our nation's capital this week, practicing at the Verizon Center for its upcoming trip to Buenos Aires for the 2008 FIBA Americas Championship. USA Basketball's web site has a feature up today about U18 team member, Virginia native -- and incoming Terp -- Lynetta Kizer that is certainly a recommended read for Maryland fans. (BTW, how many days until Maryland's home opener?)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Mystics came into Madison Square Garden tonight hoping to get a much-need road win. But they also came in with a dismal 3-8 record away from home, and unfortunately they left with an even worse road record of 3-9. In the process of losing to being blown out by the Liberty 77-56, the Mystics showed why they are the lowest scoring team in the league, the team with the lowest free-throw percentage, and the team with the most turnovers . . . in High-Def.

In the first half alone, the Mystics committed 12 turnovers, finishing the night with 22. In the first three quarters, the Mystics allowed New York to go on runs of 15-5, 12-6, and 15-1. The Mystics started the 4th quarter down by 17, and the final 10 minutes were pretty much a romp by the Liberty bench. To say that watching this game on TV wasn't much fun would be an understatement. There's a great deal more (none of it good) that could be said about how the Mystics played this evening, but it's late, so we're calling it a night.

* * * * * * *
Friday morning update . . . The Mystics return to the Phone Booth at 7 PM tonight where they will face the Eastern Conference-leading Detroit Shock (to whom they lost a week ago in Detroit, 79-66). If you've missed it, you can read a very special pre-game analysis of tonight's matchup by our very special guest analysts in the post immediately below.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The BasketCases are pleased to announce that, as a result of the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received following their Mystics-Monarchs game preview, we have again invited Markus and Tyler to serve as guest-analysts. So let’s check in with them now for a little Mystics pre-game Q & A from The Big Chair.

BC: Markus, Tyler, welcome back to the BasketCases blog!

Markus: Our pleasure.

Tyler: Thanks for inviting us.

BC: Before we start, let’s get the question out of the way that we’re sure everyone's wondering about: how is it that a couple of guys so young are so good at analyzing basketball games?

Tyler: If we got a free diaper every time we’ve been asked that question, Mom and Dad would never have to buy Pampers again!

Markus: Actually, the answer should be obvious. We’ve been around basketball – played at a championship level – our whole lives! Aunt Pam [Ward], Mrs. [Doris] Burke, Mr. [Mark] Jones . . . can any of them honestly say they were on the sidelines, at practices, in huddles, or breaking down film prenatally? No they can’t! But we can! We’ve been soaking up everything we can learn about the game since we were in the womb!

Tyler: That’s right. At my delivery, I refused to cry – because there’s no crying in basketball. So when the Doctor slapped me on the rump, trying to get me to make some noise, I just chest-bumped Markus and we both screamed “Beat Duke!”

BC: (Laughing) Come on guys, that’s a little hard to believe!

Markus: We never joke about beating Duke. Ask Mom if you don’t believe us.

BC: OK, let’s leave that for now and segue into a little pre-game analysis. The Mystics' next home game is a rematch against Detroit on Friday at 7PM. Needless to say, the Mystics didn’t fare so well in Detroit last week. Turnovers, trouble scoring . . . not exactly one of the Mystics' best efforts.

Tyler: Every team has difficulty when they play the Shock with Coach Laimbeer and Coach Mahorn on the sidelines. The Mystics are no exception. It’s the gravitational pull.

BC: Gravitational pull? Are you serious?

Markus: Have you seen those two guys? They could qualify for their own zip code!

Tyler: Markus, that's not polite. Really though, it’s quite simple. Research has shown that the additional mass in proximity to the court when those two gentlemen are sitting next to each other causes the basketball to hook or slice in the direction of the bench. Thus all the missed shots and above-average turnovers.

BC: We’ve never heard that! That’s amazing! But why wouldn’t it affect both teams equally?

Markus: Well, it does and it doesn’t.

Tyler: That’s right. Think of it as a home court advantage, but one they get to take on the road. The Shock practice and play every day with their coaches. Over time, subliminally, Detroit’s players adjust their shots and passes for the effect of the higher gravitational force coming from the Shock-bench end of the court. So while the force is still there, it doesn’t seem to affect the Shock as much as it does their opponents.

BC: So does this mean that you expect the Mystics to have another off night on Friday when Laimbeer and Mahorn come to the Verizon Center?

Markus: We think the Mystics could do much better playing at home.

Tyler: That’s right. But only if they take certain precautions. Specifically, they need to increase the mass of their own bench. Fortunately, the Mystics have a massive coach of their own. But Coach Rollins alone won’t be enough. They need to position Pax, you know, the fat Panda, next to Coach Rollins. The two of them together should help create a stronger gravitational field around the Mystics' bench. It won’t cancel out the pull from Coaches Laimbeer and Mahorn, but the Shock players won’t be used to feeling the additional force on that end of the court and thus we predict that they too will have more trouble shooting and passing the ball. It provides the Mystics with a much better chance. We think an upset is definitely possible.

BC: Well that’s good to hear! And thanks so much for your insightful analysis. By the way, will you be joining the BasketCases at the Phone Booth Friday night?

Tyler: (Shaking head) Past our bedtime!

Markus: There’s that . . . the old bedtime problem. And there’s also the fact that all that extra gravitational pull could be dangerous for little guys like us. If we got close, we could get pulled into an orbit and end up circling the Shock coaches like a couple of moons. So we’ll just have to ask Mom and Dad to record the game for us, since it's being broadcast on Comcast Sports Net here in the DC area, and nationally on NBA-TV.

Photo Credit: Daddy Cam
* * * * * * * *
But before Detroit . . . The Mystics travel to the Big Apple on Thursday to take on the Liberty in Madison Square Garden at 7:30PM. This game will also be broadcast in the DC area on Comcast Sports Net and nationally on NBA-TV.

Thursday Morning Update . . . Mike Fratto of the Washington Times reports that the Mystics are focused on their July games as critical in the playoff push. Duh!!

Sunday, July 13, 2008


We confess that when the Sun opened this afternoon's game with a 9-0 run, we worried that this would be another edition of the Mystics' Disappearing-First-Half-Blues. But as anyone at the Phone Booth (or watching this nationally televised game on ABC) can tell you -- "Blue" didn't disappear at all -- Nikki B's presence was very obvious as she helped lead the Mystics to a win over Connecticut, 69-64.

The home crowd (as well as the TV audience) was treated to an exciting afternoon of basketball. After the Sun's opening run, the Mystics responded and finished the quarter up by 1. By limiting first-half turnovers (to only 6), the Mystics held on to a slim lead at the break, despite 18 points from the Sun's All-Star, Lindsay Whalen (who finished with a game-best 33!).

Early in the 3rd period, the Mystics extended their lead to 6, only to see their All-Star guard, Alana Beard, head to the bench with an apparent eye injury. However, in what was probably the most balanced offensive performance we've witnessed this season (7 Mystics players scored 7 points or more), Alana's teammates responded (especially Nikki B, who scored 11 of her team-high 13 points in the 3rd) and extended a 2-point half-time lead to 13 at the end of 30 minutes.

As good teams often do, the Sun pushed the Mystics hard in the final period, cutting their lead to 1 point with just under a minute to play. But Alana (who played about 5 minutes of the 4th quarter) proved that sometimes it's better to be lucky than good -- or, in Alana's case, both lucky and good -- as a friendly backboard helped her seal the Mystics' win when she banked in a long 2-pointer with 37 seconds remaining.

For a change, the Mystics' posts (size-wise) matched up well against their opponent's frontcourt. With an even match-up, the Mystics' not so "bigs" were able to out-hustle, out-score and out-rebound the Sun's not so "bigs," really helping the Mystics to pull out the narrow victory in today's game.

The Mystics travel to Madison Square Garden on Thursday to take on the fiesty young Liberty in a game that will be televised on Comcast Sports in the DC-area, and NBA-TV nationally, at 7:30 PM. The Mystics are currently 2.5 games behind New York for the 4th playoff spot. A win by Washington in the Big Apple could certainly make the playoff race a lot more interesting!

The enthusiastic crowd at the Phone Booth this afternoon included a very familiar face, former PG Nikki Teasley, and one very new young fan, Nikki T's daughter, Yasherae.

Immediately following the game, the Mystics conducted an auction to benefit the Sullivan Center for Breast Health at Sibley Memorial Hospital. The players joined Mystics President Sheila Johnson and COO Greg Bibb on the court. Among the items auctioned off were signed balls, jerseys and shoes, a trip for two to NY for the game this Thursday including dinner with GM Linda Hargrove (that went for $1,200), and a game of HORSE with the winning bidder's favorite Mystics player ($600). Overall, the auction netted approximately $36,000 for Sibley, and was hugely entertaining for the fans who remained.

The auction began with bidding on a ball signed by all of the Mystics players. It went for $475, which turned out to be one of the real bargains of the day.

There was great interest in all of the auctioned items.

One of the most hotly contested items was dinner for four with a Mystics player (another player was thrown in as the bids mounted). Eventually, two bidding groups remained, and the dinner went for $2,525. During the auction, Taj leaped into the stands to urge on the bidders and lobby -- successfully -- to be one of the two Mystics invited . . . Alana will also get a free meal!

Why is Laurie Koehn smiling? Well, her autographed, game worn jersey sparked an intense bidding war and was finally gavelled down for $3,000!

Mo, Nikki B, and Ne-Mo can't believe how much some fans are bidding on used clothing. Neither could the BasketCases . . . but we were happy that they did. It was for a very worthy cause!

Nikki B was only supposed to lose her jersey tonight, but fans asked for her earrings as well. The ensemble fetched a cool $1,000.

Kia worked hard to drive up the bids. She seemed particularly interested in an autographed Caron Butler jersey, but some lucky fan got it for just $400.

Taj exhorting the crowd to bid more for her jersey and shoes; they went for $1,500.

Wait . . . there's another bidder over there . . . .

The highest bid today, not surprisingly, was for Alana Beard's autographed, game worn jersey, which went for a whopping $4,500 (and for that amount, AB also threw in her shoes)! Mo Currie's gear was not far behind; her jersey, shoes and shooting shirt fetched $4,100.

Speaking of jerseys . . . were the BasketCases the only ones who noticed that someone named Langhorn (no "E"), wearing the Number 1, played the first half of the game today for the Mystics, while . . .

someone named Langhorne, also wearing the Number 1, played the second half?

* * * * * * *
The Charm Factor: (Simon Says) FIVE BUNNIES!!! (out of 5): Yes, a perfect afternoon for Mystics fans at the Phone Booth. Not just the win over the Sun, but thousands of fans waving pink rally towels (the day's free fan give-away), a wonderful performance of the National Anthem by the Harbor City Music Company (a women's chorus out of Baltimore), a fun halftime game of Simon Says by Steve Max, Mr. Simon Sez himself, and then topped off, of course, by the incredibly entertaining (and worthwhile!) auction.

Photo Credits: DC BasketCases

Friday, July 11, 2008

No Palace Coup

Coming into their game against the Mystics tonight at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the Detroit Shock were a perfect 8 and 0 at home, the only team in the WNBA undefeated on their own court. And at the end of the game, Detroit's home record was still spotless, as the Shock beat the Mystics, 79-66.

The Mystics began the game as they have so many others -- completely flat, scoring only 11 points in the first quarter, while committing 8 turnovers. At one point, in fact, the Mystics had as many turnovers as they had points. Detroit, meanwhile, scored 23 in the same period. It was just painful to listen to. Once again, the Mystics dug themselves into a hole from which they could not emerge. At halftime, the Shock led 40-27, and at the end of the third period, they were up 61-46. Washington did not lead once during the entire game.

The Mystics had absolutely no answer for Katie Smith, who nailed a whopping 7 of 9 from beyond the arc, finishing with a game-high 23 points. Three other Shock players also finished in double figures.

For the Mystics, Coco Miller had a big game off the bench, hitting a team high 15 points, while Mo Currie, with 13, was the only other Mystic in double figures. Alana Beard, who along with Taj McWilliams-Franklin reportedly chewed out her teammates after the Mystics' 14-point first half against the Fever last Tuesday, scored 8 points tonight (hitting only 2 of 10 to go along with 4 free throws). Taj had 7 tonight (and 8 boards). Overall, the Mystics shot only 39% from the field and committed 19 turnovers.

With tonight's loss, the Mystics fall to 7 and 12. They'll be back at the Phone Booth on Sunday to take on the Connecticut Sun at 3:30PM.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

As Ringo Says, It Don't Come Easy.

In this morning's Washington Post, Matthew Stanmyre writes about incoming Maryland freshman Lynetta Kizer and the tough new training (and dietary!) regimen she's adopted to prepare herself for the rigors of playing college and international basketball.

If you haven't already seen the article in today's paper, check out the link here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Bail Out!

At halftime of tonight's game, many Mystics fans bailed out of the Phone Booth, heading for the exits and heading for home. After suffering through two quarters in which Washington scored 8 and 6 points, respectively, and committed 16 turnovers, who could blame them? It was simply one of the worst halves of basketball the fans (including the BasketCases) had ever seen! At the end of two quarters, the Fever led by 15 points, though they only managed to score 29 points. We doubt there was a single Mystics fan in attendance who "believed" the home team had any chance of catching them.

Which just goes to show you that sometimes it's a good thing to be dead wrong. Because fortunately for those of us who stayed, the Mystics regrouped in the locker room and came out and played a respectable second half, scoring 36 points and finishing with 50. Fifty points doesn't usually win WNBA games, but tonight, it wasn't just some fans who bailed out; no, the Fever bailed out the Mystics by posting an embarrassing half of their own -- scoring only 19 points in the second 20 minutes, for a total of 48 points. When the final buzzer sounded, the Mystics had opened the second half of their 2008 WNBA season with a win over an almost-certain playoff team, 50-48.

To be sure, some of Indiana's woes were due to the Mystics' defense, but frankly, tonight's was probably the worst game the BasketCases have ever seen the Fever play. All in all, it was a really ugly game, but a win is a win and we'll take one any way we can!

Taj McWilliams-Franklin led all scorers with 20 (she was the only Mystics player in double figures), but her contributions went far beyond her points. Taj truly kept the Mystics in the game, rallying them with her energy and veteran leadership on the court, leadership the Mystics can't seem to find anywhere else. The BasketCases give Taj a big shout out. She made "believers" out of us!

Next up for the Mystics is a road game on Friday against the defending Eastern Conference Champions, the Detroit Shock. Somehow we think the Mystics will need more than 50 points to win that game . . . but, who knows, we would've said the same thing before witnessing tonight's Lucky 50!

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The Charm Factor: Two Bunnies (out of a possible 5). The National Anthem was well-sung by Wilbert Hall (albeit without pace), and halftime was a performance by another children's dance group, who, once again, couldn't live up to the Mystics' own Mayhem. Again, a somewhat ho-hum fan experience.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Got $10? Save a Life! Tomorrow (Tuesday) the Mystics will host the Indiana Fever at 7 PM at the Verizon Center. But that's not all they're doing . . . the Mystics are also teaming up with NothingButNets, a WNBA/NBA charity partner organization that buys and delivers insecticide-treated bed nets (the most cost-effective way to prevent malaria) to some of the poorest parts of the world.

Basketball games are not life or death (even if we sometimes act like they are). But Malaria Kills (in Africa, it's a leading killer of children), and a $10 net can literally save a life. Ruth Riley, who was here on Sunday with her Silver Stars, has seen this for herself. Watch the video and then decide if you've got an extra ten dollars to spare . . .

On a different note . . . SportsPageMike's Kecia Bailey interviewed former Terps Crystal Langhorne (Mystics) and Laura Harper (Monarchs) shortly before the two faced off last week in Sacramento and posted the Q and A today.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Although the Mystics lost to the Silver Stars this afternoon at the Phone Booth, 83-75, they played better as a team than we've seen them play in quite some time, and that was encouraging. The second half in particular was spirited basketball, as Washington came back from a 12-point deficit to take a small lead. Unfortunately, San Antonio (the top team in the West right now) reclaimed it a short while later and hung on for the win, despite a late Mystics rally.

The second half made for some real excitement in the Verizon Center and for some good television. If you weren't (as we were) part of the above-average crowd in attendence, then you probably saw the game on ABC. So we don't really need to say much more, except to note that Alana Beard led the Mystics with 20 points and veteran All-Star Taj McWilliams-Franklin added 15 points and 8 rebounds for the home team. Becky Hammonova led all scorers with 28 points, and recorded a game-high 6 assists (which should put a smile on face of the Russian Olympic coach).

Despite the loss, the performance this afternoon of one of our favorite WNBA rookies gave the BasketCases (and, no doubt, Terps fans everywhere) something to smile about as well. Crystal Langhorne got her first nationally televised WNBA start . . . and she didn't disappoint. In a little under 26 minutes of playing time, Lang posted a career-high 17 points (on 8 of 12 shooting), second highest on the team after Alana. Lang also pulled down 7 rebounds, and made her presence known on the defensive end, notching 2 steals and a block. We hope there will be more opportunites for Lang to show off her abilities as the season progresses.

And speaking of the season progressing, the Mystics are now officially at the midpoint of the WNBA season . . . halfway there. The only question is where is "there?" Currently the team stands at 6-11, one win better than at this time last year, but still 3 games out of 4th place (the final playoff position). It's certainly not where the team or its fans wanted or expected to be at this point, but today's more encouraging play could mean that we have a better second half of the season to look forward to. Let's hope so.

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The Charm Factor: Two Bunnies (out of a possible 5). A perfect classic rendition of the National Anthem by Sgt. Julia Brundage, and a skilled, halftime demonstration by the U.S. Navy Drill Team. Otherwise, nothing much to write home about.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Congratulations to the Atlanta Dream, and especially to former Mystics Assistant, now Dream Head Coach, Marynell Meadors, on their first-ever franchise win!!!!!

Tonight in front of their home fans in Atlanta, after beginning the season with a WNBA-record 17 straight losses, the Dream held on to a slim lead in the closing moments for the victory over the Chicago Sky, 91-84.

Congratulations to Marynell and her entire team!

The Russians Are Russian Is Coming

Tomorow (Sunday), the Mystics will make their first home appearance in nearly two weeks when they take on the Silvers Stars at 1 PM at the Phone Booth. San Antonio currently sits atop the Western Conference with a record of 11-6 and is led by that famous Russian star and soon to be Russian Olympian, Becky Hammonova, who hails from Moscow and who spearheaded her University of Kazakhstan team to a Steppes of Central Asia championship before joining the New York Liberty as an undrafted free agent.

Becky, shown here telling a BasketCases correspondent how much she is looking forward to playing in Beijing next month, very much impressed our reporter with her fluency in English (which, we concede, is much better than our command of Russian).

Sunday's game will be televised nationally on ABC, so if you can't make it to the Phone Booth, there's никакое оправдание no excuse for you to miss it!

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy July 4th to all!

By the way, don't let the date on the document fool you . . . the Declaration of Independence was not signed on July 4th! That little bit of history comes to you courtesy of the BasketCases (in the event that you did not watch John Adams on HBO earlier this year, or, even better, read David McCullough's excellent book on which it was based). But regardless of when the document was signed, today is the date on which our country observes its declaration of independence. So go out and celebebrate, and let freedom ring!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Couldn't Hang On.

After the Mystics' disappointing effort in Seattle on Sunday, the good news is that the team found a lot more offense last night against Sacramento; the bad news is that it wasn't quite enough, as the Mystics lost to the Monarchs, 81-87.

Yesterday's game was one of those up and down affairs . . . the Mystics were behind by only a single point at the half, took the lead after the break, lost it, tied it up at 75 with only 1:43 remaining (thanks to a big 3-pointer by Monique Currie), but couldn't hang on, as the Monarchs responded with an 8-0 run that put them ahead for good. Close, but still no "W."

Alana Beard scored a game-high 31 points, Mo added 17 (and 7 assists!), and Nakia Sanford, again coming off the bench, played like her old self in the first half, as she scored 10 points for the Mystics before the break. Unfortunately, her old self then stayed in the locker room, as Kia also finished the game with just those same 10 points.

Probably the most remarkable statistic of the night was the 17 points put up by the Monarch's PG (and former Old Dominion superstar), Ticha Penicheiro, who is known far more for her incredible passing skills (she had 8 assists last night) than for her scoring. DC-area natives Kara Lawson and Rebekkah Brunson scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, for Sacramento. And sadly for Maryland fans, neither Lang nor Harp had a good night, both playing about 13 minutes but scoring 0 and 2, respectively.

With the season nearly half over, the Mystics now return home having gone 1-2 on their west coast swing, dropping to 6-10 overall. The Mystics' Every-Sunday-In-July-Series begins this week at 1 PM, when they host San Antonio at the Phone Booth.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Rematch

Tyler: Markus, don't you just love this chair?

Markus: You bet, Bro! It sure brings back memories. I can't wait for the new season to start. But I sure am gonna miss Lang and Harp come fall.

Tyler: You know they're playing each other tonight. The Mystics and the Monarchs have a rematch out in Sacramento.

Markus: Really? Cool! Can we catch it on TV or the web?

Tyler: Nah, no video, just audio on WNBA.com.

Markus: What time's the game?

Tyler: 'fraid it's after our bedtime . . . starts at 10 PM EDT. But maybe for Lang and Harp, we can get Mommy and Daddy to let us stay up late.

Markus: Yeah, that would be great! Maybe they'll let us sit here together in the Big Chair listening to those two play . . . just like old times, eh, Bro?

Tyler: Got that right. We listened to a lot of games from this chair last season. So who are you picking tonight?

Markus: Well, I have to go with the Mystics. Lang's money in the paint. She's leading the WNBA in shooting percentage, isn't she?

Tyler: Yeah, that's true. If she isn't the best finisher in the league, she's pretty close to it. But don't forget the Monarchs won at the Phone Booth and they're pretty tough to beat at Arco. So my milk money's on Harp and the 'Narchs.

Markus: I'm getting excited already, aren't you? Shoot, I think I already need a new diaper.

Tyler: I know what you mean, but we still need to get permission to stay up late.

Markus: Tell you what, I'll tell Daddy that Mommy said it was OK with her if it's OK with him.

Tyler: Right! And I'll tell Mommy that it's OK with Daddy, if it's OK with her! Works every time. Great idea, Markus!

Markus: Hey, it's nothing . . . that's what older brothers are for.

Photo Credit (and thanks!): DaddyCam (Tyler on the left, Markus on the right)

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Other Maryland news . . . Many thanks to one of our Aussie readers for news about another former Terp, Shay Doron.