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.


At 12:39 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Yeah, I can't say I really want to spend hundreds dollars more on playoff tickets for a team who just squeaks in through another team's meltdown or by chance, only to be bounced in the first round due to middle school style turnovers and lackadaisical play.

I truly hope this break gives the team time to regroup, recharge, and remember that as fans we want to have a reason to cheer for them - and to BELIEVE as we've been asked to do so many times.

At 12:49 PM, Blogger posting-up said...

Great post, BCs!
Question -- are there any league-imposed limitations on how much a team can practice during the break? Do you have any info or insight into what J-Law has planned for the month "off"?

At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post. And you definitely speak for a LOT of Mystics fans. What's the point if we'll be bounced in two games with little hope of even competing? After 11 years, this team should be up there with the Detroits and Connecticuts of the world. It's funny, though, I have a conflict for the final game of the season, which falls on the same day of the Redskins season-opener at FedEx. This team is making my choice easier by the day.

At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me say that I am all against a team intentionally tanking a season. But I won't be too disappointed (or at least not any more disappointed) if the Mystics do not make the palyoffs.

As noted by others, they'd only make an early exit and move themselves out of lottry contention. Another factor for the team is that because of the late scheduling of the playoffs, the Mystics would be pushed out of the MCI center and have to play elsewhere - likley the Comcast center - at an addtional cost to the team. Granted that would likely be for one game, but still.

This off season, Dr. J and Greg Bibb need to do a total house cleaning, with no one expendable.

At 8:01 AM, Blogger BasketCases said...


We completely agree with you: tanking is unacceptable. (We wouldn't even "Tank for Toliver." LOL!)

As for the rest, all good points.

-- BC

At 8:22 AM, Blogger BasketCases said...


From press reports, it appears that a team may have partial squad practices during the break, but the full team can't practice together. Apparently, this is so the teams with Olympians aren't disadvantaged.

-- BC

At 3:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Tank for Toliver" - I hope I don't see that tshirt.

At 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Tony- and have felt this way all season... with 2 exceptions, I would keep Lang and Taj and everyone else goes on the "block" [expendable].

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty pitiful when the one thing that I'm looking forward with this team, the one recent decision the organization has made that I agree with, is holding the upcoming STH event at Dave & Buster's. The heat at Six Flags last year was PAINFUL.


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