Friday, April 29, 2011

And Now Katie's Gone Too . . .

The Mystics have just announced that, as part of a three-team deal, Katie Smith has been traded to the Seattle Storm, along with Jacinta Monroe. You may recall that Jacinta, a 6'5" center from Florida State University, was the Mystics' first round draft pick last season, and that her rookie season was cut short by injury.

In exchange for Katie and Jacinta, the Mystics will receive guard Jasmine Thomas, who is about to graduate from Duke and was selected by the Storm with the overall 12th pick in the WNBA draft earlier this month. Jasmine worked as an intern last summer for the Mystics, and now she'll be back competing for a roster spot in training camp. The third team involved in this trade is the Indiana Fever, who've acquired veteran guard Erin Phillips from the Storm. Future draft picks are also part of the overall deal.

Well, the reinvention of the Mystics continues . . . hmmm. And to think that last September we thought this would be a quiet off season.

As for Katie . . . when she signed as a free agent with the Mystics in 2010 (the biggest free agent signing in franchise history), the BCs weren't sure how long we'd have the pleasure of seeing her play here in Washington. Between Katie's health issues and her age, there was a distinct possibility that 2010 could be Katie's only year with the Mystics . . . and her final season in the WNBA.

But what we didn't expect was that 2010 would be Katie's only year with the Mystics, not because she was retiring, but because she was going off to play for another team. We were wrong.

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases

Saturday, April 23, 2011

We’re Jealous

Our neighbors a few houses down were Caps fans and Caps season ticket holders long before it was cool. And long before the Caps were Rockin’ the Red in a sold-out Verizon Center, as they did this afternoon. We’re really happy for them today . . . for our neighbors, and for the Caps. But we confess, we’re also a wee bit jealous too.

Ted Leonsis had a long-term plan for the Caps; he stuck with it (even engaged in a little fisticuffs to defend it), and now it’s paying off.

Ted has a plan for another of his teams as well. Last Sunday, after the conclusion of the Wizards’ dismal 23-59 season, Ted told the Washington Post that the team nonetheless was “ahead of [his] expectations.” And he also went on record saying that Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld and Coach Flip Saunders would both be welcomed back next season. Because, as Ted says, “change has to be responsible.”

According to the Post’s Michael Lee, Ted was “convinced that the faults of the Washington [men’s] basketball team were rooted in a lack of continuity and a failure to commit to a strategy.” The article pointed out that before Ted took over the team, the Wizards had been led by 13 different coaches in 32 seasons. To his credit, Ted doesn’t appear to believe that a revolving door of coaches is any way to build a team, or to win. He has a plan for long-term success and he stands behind it, even when the team is playing in front of lots of empty seats.

You know where we’re going with this, right? We look at our neighbors today and are really happy for them. And we know that being long-term supporters of a frequently losing team makes winning (like today) that much sweeter.

And we relate to that. Because, as Mystics fans from a time when there was only a hope, and then a promise, of a WNBA franchise in Washington, from a time when the team still had no name, we stuck with them through 10 coaches in 11 seasons . . . and a whole lot of losing.

But finally, starting in 2009, thanks to what we believed to be a commitment from management to a strategy, the hallmark of which was supposed to be continuity, the Mystics put together back-to-back seasons with the same GM, the same Coach, the same core of talented young players, and were definitely showing signs of significant improvement. Remarkably, in year two of the new strategy (and even without the services of their top performer, Alana Beard), the team managed to finish the regular season on top of the Eastern Conference, and with a franchise-record-setting 22 wins to boot. That was sweet.

Yes, of course we were disappointed that our team lost in the first round of the playoffs . . . but so did the Caps last season. And look how happy the Caps made our neighbors – and all their fans – today!

But as pleased as we are for the Caps fans, we admit to feeling a little cheated, as Mystics fans. We keep asking ourselves the same question: why couldn’t the top management of our team stick to the plan?

Perhaps the Mystics’ Sheila Johnson didn’t have enough confidence in her own abilities to sell the team’s success. But if so, she was wrong. Because just a month after Angela and Julie were effectively shown the door, negotiations with Inova got underway, and now the Mystics have a “marquee partner” and jersey sponsor. And a good sponsor at that.

But in terms of the front office brain trust and the players on the court, the Mystics, to quote a recent headline in the Washington Post, have undergone “a total makeover,” not something expected – or warranted – after the most successful season ever. All the result of a failure to stick with a strategy, a failure of continuity.

Trudi has many good players on her roster (and she’s got Alana back). The team may do very well this summer. We hope so, for the sake of the players and the fans. But the team is once again starting a season with a new GM, a new Head Coach (not to mention a new PG) . . . the only thing NOT new is the lack of continuity. That’s something Mystics fans are very familiar with. And, once again, we're left to wait and wonder whether it’ll all come together.

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases (Happy Caps fans . . . but not our neighbors. Too young!)

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's Official . . . Lindsey's Gone

The Mystics just traded Lindsey Harding to the Atlanta Dream.

Washington is sending its All-Star point guard plus the Mystics' second round draft pick in 2012 to Atlanta, in exchange for newbie Center Ta'Shia Phillips (who was drafted today by the Dream with the 8th overall pick) plus veteran PG (and twin of Coco) Kelly Miller, and the Dream's first round draft pick in 2012.

So . . . more oldies and newbies to the Mystics. And one of the BCs' very favorite Mystics -- ever -- traded to Atlanta. We will really miss her.

Welcome, Newbies!

As our readers know, the 2011 WNBA Draft was held today. The Mystics, coming off their best season ever, picked late in the first round -- number 11 to be exact -- and selected Victoria Dunlap, a talented, 6'1" Forward from the University of Kentucky who may well give Marissa Coleman a run for her money in filling in for the injured Mo Currie.

Picking equally late in the 2nd and 3rd rounds (overall picks #23 and #35), the Mystics added to Team ACC by tapping Karima Christmas, a 6-foot G/F from Duke, and Sarah Krnjic, a 6'4" Center from Serbia. (Yes, we said "who?" as well.)

For those who were at work and not able to sneak a peek at ESPN's live broadcast of the draft (like tax accountants, for example), ESPN announcers Pam Ward, Carolyn Peck, and Rebecca Lobo had some (ahem) "interesting" things to say about the Mystics during this afternoon's broadcast.

According to Peck, Katie Smith wants to play in Seattle, and Lindsey Harding has asked to be traded to Los Angeles or Atlanta. Lobo described the Mystics' backcourt as being in "ridiculous turmoil." Who would ever have thought we'd be hearing this after the team's most successful season ever? Then again, who would ever have thought that the team's most successful GM and the most successful Head Coach would have been shown the door after that most successful season ever, all to save a bit of money?

With Lindsey and Katie still un-signed, we think there will be another chapter to this story.

In any any event . . . welcome, new Mystics!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Harding Wants Out

Back in January, Mystics GM/Head Coach Trudi Lacey announced that her top two priorities for the free agency period were to re-sign Lindsey Harding and Katie Smith.

Not only has Trudi been unsuccessful so far in accomplishing either goal, but, in recent weeks, it’s been a poorly kept secret in WNBA circles that Lindsey, the Mystics’ All-Star point guard, wants to be traded to another team. Until today, however, none of the parties involved in the negotiations had made any public comment.

All that changed this afternoon, as the Washington Post’s Kathy Orton reports here on her interviews with Trudi and with Lindsey’s agent. According to Orton, the Mystics and Lindsey have reached “an impasse,” and Trudi, just in case, is preparing for life without Lindsey. (Oh, and by the way, Katie Smith may not be back either.) It's hard to imagine the Mystics without Lindsey.

In her two seasons with the Mystics, Lindsey has become one of the BCs’ very favorite players. Extremely talented, exciting to watch, a workhorse (33 minutes per game!), and a competitor with a never-give-up mentality. It's a pretty well accepted truth that elite point guards in the WNBA are very rare. Until Lindsey was acquired by the Mystics (thanks to a very successful trade engineered by then-GM Angela Taylor), the team (in our opinion) was really hampered by not having one. And now, it seems, there’s a good possibility the Mystics will be similarly hampered again.

And just when we thought the Mystics’ off-season personnel news could not get any worse . . .

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases

* * * * * * *
Saturday update . . .
In a move to improve their post presence, the Mystics have just traded away their first round pick in next season's (2012) WNBA draft to the Minnesota Lynx in exchange for 6'3" Forward/Center Nicky Anosike. Nicky is a 2008 graduate of Tennessee, where she played on the 2007 and 2008 National Championship teams. Meanwhile, the Washington Post's Kathy Orton reports that Alana Beard had this to say when asked if she's going to play this season: "I hope so. That’s my goal. I’ll be ready to go.” We hope so too; AB has worked very hard on her re-hab, and it would be terrible if she could not play.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A Breath of Fresh Air

As the BCs settled in to watch the National Championship game last night, that's the thought we had . . . what a breath of fresh air! How utterly refreshing that we weren't about to see another Tournament final featuring the Huskies or the Lady Vols, or any of the other usual suspects (not that we have anything against those teams).

We found it so refreshing that we were actually about to see a team playing in the championship game for the very first time in its school history; a team coached by someone who's been in the game for three decades; a gray-haired guy who's coached really well, for a really long time, but mostly under the media's radar. And it was also so refreshing that their opponent was a team that hadn't been to a championship game for a decade. And they too were coached by another big contributor to women's basketball, someone who spends a good part of her season in the shadows of two very big names in her own conference, Geno Auriemma and C. Vivian Stringer. Not to mention that there were great players on both teams who, frankly, we don't get to see often enough. But last night, we would get that chance.

So, yes, we were really excited when the game finally tipped off, and as things unfolded, the game did not disappoint. It was well-played by both teams, a back-and-forth nailbiter that came down to the wire, a great game to watch. (Nothing like that painful, embarrassing, 53-41 groaner the men's tourney "featured" Monday night.)

When the women's 40 minutes on the Big Stage of the Big Dance was finally over, the Aggies had won the Natty for their school, 76-70, led by their incredible senior, Danielle Adams. She showed herself to be a big-time player who played her best when everything was on the line. Danielle, a junior college transfer, scored 30 of her team's 76 points. What a way to end your college career!! And one of our favorite media-moments last night was when the camera panned to the Danielle Adams matriarchal-history-section of Conseco Fieldhouse: there was her joyful Mom, then there was equally joyful Grandma, and then down the row . . . there's Great Grandma! (BCs note to selves: keep kleenex handy when watching basketball.)

Congrats to the Aggies, to Adams, to all of her teammates, and to Coach Gary Blair and his staff. And congratulations also to Notre Dame, to Coach Muffet McGraw and her staff and players, including Skylar Diggins (only a sophomore! -- she'll be back) for a great season and a great Final Four. Both teams showed that they were worthy of playing for a championship. They didn't get there by fluke upsets; they got there because they were good.

So, to both teams, thanks for so much fun these past few days. It was a great Final Four for women's basketball. It was exciting, entertaining . . . and yes, it was also very refreshing!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Wasn't Last Night Great?

Two tightly contested National Semifinal games. One with an absolutely AMAZING final 9 seconds!!! The other with two AMAZING players on opposite teams doing everything humanly possible to will their teams to victory.

Wonderful seasons for the Huskies and the Cardinal . . . they should be proud. But in the end, what made last night so unbelievable was that not just one, but two -- both -- of the supposed underdogs won! Congratulations to Coach Gary Blair and his fiesty Aggies! And Congratulations to Coach Muffet McGraw and her tough-it-out Fighting Irish players. A maroon team and a green team will slug it out tomorrow (Tuesday) for the Natty! Who woulda thunk it? We bet there's not a bracket out there that hasn't been busted!

Both the the Aggies and the Irish had to play -- and had to beat -- teams from their own conferences in order to advance in this year's tourney. Prior to the Big Dance, A&M had played -- and lost -- three times to their Big 12 rival, and the #1 seed in their NCAA Tourney region, Baylor, before surprising the world (but not themselves) in their 4th meeting this year, when they knocked off the Golden Bears for the Regional Title. And then last night, Notre Dame had to face their Big East nemesis, the indomitable UConn Huskies. As had the Aggies to Baylor, the Irish had lost three times in conference play to Geno's team this season. But the luck (and particularly the skill) of the Irish prevailed.

What strikes us about the two #2 seeds advancing to the Championship game is a certain similarity to our favorite Natty year, 2006. Maryland was in the unenviable position of having not just the #1 ranked team in the country in its own conference . . . but yet another team that was close behind. In the Final Four, both of those ACC teams stood between the Terps (a #2 seed) and The Banner. But like last night, the tough and talented #2 prevailed. So -- nothing against the Cardinal or the Huskies -- but we felt a special affinity for last night's #2s.

One more thing: there was talk in the media that everyone wanted to see a Tennessee/UConn semifinal. What great television! What great drama! Well, count the BCs out. We won't miss a Scowling Pat facing a Smirking Geno for one micro-second. As far as we're concerned, there is far too much emphasis put on that old rivalry and far too much media attention focused on those two teams.

What last night's exciting performances illustrate so well is this: the women's game is not just about the Lady Vols or the Huskies. There are many good teams; great coaches; great players; and they don't all wear orange or navy blue. A maroon v. green final . . . we couldn't be happier (unless, of course, one of the teams was wearing Terrapin red).

Go Underdogs . . . Win a Natty!