The Washington Mystics entered the WNBA as an expansion franchise in the 1998 season. Their franchise history has included four playoff appearances, most recently in 2006. Almost everyone is back for 2007, including six players who started 19 or more games in 2006: Alana Beard, DeLisha Milton-Jones, Chasity Melvin, Nikki Teasley, Crystal Robinson and Nakia Sanford. With the highest field goal percentage in the league (46.2%) and the second highest scoring average in the league (80.8), it's no surprise that Coach Richie Adubato and the team's management chose to keep the team largely intact.
2006 In Review
What Went Right?
After an offseason of movement that put together one of the best rosters in franchise history, it should come as no surprise that the Washington Mystics returned to the postseason in the feisty Eastern Conference. Washington finished with an 18-16 record, which ranked them fourth in the East. The win total made it their best regular season in franchise history.
More than anything, the Mystics' success can be attributed to their prolific offense. The team ranked second in the league with 80.8 points per game, first in the league in with a 46.2% field goal percentage and fourth in 16.9 assists a game. Their balanced attack featured four players who averaged in double digits. Alana Beard's 19.2 ppg led the pack, as did her 0.78 blocks and 1.84 steals per game. Her play landed her spots on the All-WNBA Second Team, the All-Defensive Second Team and the East's All-Star Team as a reserve.
Another of the double-digit scorers was center Chasity Melvin (11.9), who played a major role on the low post leading the team in rebounds with 6.5 per game. Guard Nikki Teasley was the Mystics' main distributor, leading the league in assists with 5.4 per game.
What Went Wrong?
While the Mystics succeeded on offense, they often struggled on defense. Washington's 78.2 points allowed a game ranked 10th in the league. They also finished in the bottom half in both rebounding and blocks.
The Mystics also had issues on the road, winning only five times away from home all season long. Their road woes continued in their brief postseason appearance as well, but their offense also suffered an untimely slump. Connecticut handled the usually high-octane Mystics, holding them to 35.7% and 32.4% from the field in their two-game playoff sweep.
But perhaps the biggest killer for the Mystics last season came on June 17 in a win against New York. The Mystics suffered a huge loss when DeLisha Milton-Jones, both an emotional leader and key player on both ends of the floor, injured her knee and was out for about a month. In only 23 games she averaged 14.6 ppg, 1.52 spg and 4.87 rpg.
After the injury occurred, Mystics Coach Richie Adubato said. "She's our only big [player] who can shoot from the outside and that stretches the defense. Not having her is detrimental for us because in my offense, we've always had a [power forward] who could shoot from the outside."
The good news for 2007 is that Milton-Jones is healthy and has been playing in Europe for Spanish powerhouse Ros Casares Valencia this winter, leading the EuroLeague in both scoring (20.9) and rebounding (10.9).
Looking Ahead To 2007
In the Charlotte Sting Dispersal Draft, the Mystics used their sixth pick to grab 6-3 center Teana Miller. According to General Manager Linda Hargrove, "She is a big strong, physical, efficient post player." Miller did not play in 2006 because she was pregnant, but in 2005 she recorded 3.6 ppg and 2.1 rpg. Entering her third year in the league and still developing as a player, her size and physical abilities should aid the team on the defensive end. But how can she contend with some of the bigger centers around the league?
The Mystics should have a strong and healthy squad heading into the 2007 season. They have the sixth pick in the Draft and will most likely use it to add depth as they already have a solid group of high-scoring starters. If they can stay focused on the road and be just a bit stingier on defense, they could definitely improve on their 2006 campaign. Now, as for improving in the playoffs... let's cross that bridge when we get to it.
At the Bottom Yet Again (2008)
In 2008, the Mystics looked to build on their near-playoff appearance in a tough Eastern conference. They drafted Crystal Langhorne of Maryland with the 6th pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft. Plagues again by coaches problems, the Mystics fell to the bottom of the East again, finishing only in front of the expansion Atlanta team. The Mystics had gone through 10 coaches in 11 years of existence, the most in the WNBA. The Washington front office knew it needed to completely clean out the franchise if success was desired.
Changes, Part Two (2009-present)
During the 2008/2009 WNBA offseason, the Mystics released general manager Linda Hargrove (replaced by Angela Taylor) and interim coach Jessie Kenlaw (replaced by Julie Plank). Under the new general manager, under performing players were waived as new players were signed. With the second pick in the Houston dispersal draft and the 2009 WNBA Draft, the Mystics selected Matee Ajavon and Marissa Coleman, respectively. The Mystics hope to take advantage of the team changes and finally find consistency in their play.
By the time the season began, the Mystics surprisingly started 3-0. However, they went 13-18 since the first three games, but their 16-18 record was actually good enough to reach the playoffs. However, in their playoff comeback, the eventual conference champion Indiana Fever were too much for Washington and the Mystics were swept in the first round, ending their season.
The Washington Mystics led the WNBA in home attendance from 1998 through 2000 and from 2002 through 2004. To celebrate the fans turning out for games, they have hung six banners from the Verizon Center rafters celebrating each year the Mystics were "Attendance Champions."
The banners have been the focal point of much criticism over the years. With many people believing that the rafters are reserved for achievements in sports and not by the fans and thinking it is insulting to have banners for championships (such as the '84 Georgetown Hoyas and the '78 Washington Bullets) and retired numbers (for the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals) hang next to "attendance champion" banners.
Members of the press have addressed this controversy many times. Washington City Paper has called them "embarrassing", a 2005 ESPN.com article by Todd Wright had Wright commenting " it's time to lose those Mystics attendance banners hanging from the rafters", the Sports Road Trip website mocked the banners by stating "Oh... Mystics... WNBA "attendance champions" in '98 and '99. "Wheeeeeeee!" When Washington Post writer Jon Gallo was asked about the banners, he stated "The attendance banners were largely achieved because the Mystics gave away approximately 30 percent of their tickets before Sheila Johnson took over the team. If the Mystics had made everyone pay for a ticket, then they would not have had the best attendance in the league." .
As of February 2008 only three of the attendance banners - the two earliest ones (1998 and 1999) and the one for 2002 (only Mystics team to win a playoff series to date) - now hang in the Verizon Center rafters; the other three were removed to make room for a Georgetown Final Four (men's basketball) banner, to go next to that team's 1984 national championship banner.
In the 2009 season, the Mystics once again led the WNBA in attendance at 11,338 per game; however, in an entry on his blog, Ted Leonsis, whose Lincoln Holdings owns the Mystics, promised that there will be no attendance banner for 2009 should the Mystics conclude the season with the attendance lead.
|Alana Beard||19.2||Chasity Melvin||6.6||Nikki Teasley||5.4|
|DeLisha Milton-Jones||14.6||Nakia Sanford||6.0||Alana Beard||3.1|
|Chasity Melvin||11.9||DeLisha Milton-Jones||4.9||DeLisha Milton-Jones||2.1|
The Washington Mystics entered the WNBA as an expansion franchise in the 1998 season. Their franchise history has included four playoff appearances, most recently in 2006. For more, see Washington Mystics Franchise History.
|Verizon Center||1998 - Present|
|Women's National Basketball Association|
|Atlanta Dream | Chicago Sky | Connecticut Sun | Indiana Fever | New York Liberty | Washington Mystics|
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