Analysis of the Washington Mystics last six quarters indicates theoverhauled roster is starting to gel, the overall play improved.However, their last second defensive execution as in literally, the finalsecond - needs some work.The Mystics (1-3) enter Sundays road contest against the Connecticut Sun(3-1) having lost two straight games just before the game clock ran out. On Friday night, Washington led Chicago by eight points with less than threeminutes remaining and 63-58 with 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Two turnoversand a missed shot later the lead was no more. With the game tied, Sky centerSylvia Fowles scored the game-winning layup with 0.2 seconds as the Mysticsfell 65-63. That stomach-punch of a setback came after Wednesday's similarly ill-fatedresult against reigning WNBA champion Minnesota. The Mystics rallied from 24points down at home and led twice in the closing minutes before allowing theLynx a put back with one second remaining.There is a positive spin to offer, especially after opening the season withtwo subpar outings even though one came in a win. The ferocious second halfrally against the Lynx nearly turned epic and the effort carried over forstretches against the Sky. Of course, so did the losing."We're getting better. We just had some breakdowns at the end of thegame, Mystics forward Crystal Langhorne told reporters following the loss tothe Sky. We were up six, eight points. We just needed to close the game atthat point but we didn't."After starting the season with a week gap between their first two games,Sundays tilt will be the Mystics third in five days. Getting Langhorne, theMystics leading scorer last season, more involved in the offense would go along way toward getting a win against the potent Sun. Last season Washington lost all four games to itsEastern Conference rival.The all-star forward scored 12 points against the Sky and has reached doublefigures in all four games this season. However, Langhornes 13.5 points pergame average is nearly five points below her 2011 average and ranks third onthe team this season.Even though the former University of Maryland star didnt pass the buckregarding her down production -things aren't going well for me Langhornesfield goal and free throw percentages are in line with her career numbers.Instead, look to her number of shots as an indicator. Last season, Langhorneaveraged 13.7 field goal attempts per game. This season, 9.5. The Sun are having no problem getting the ball to their top three scorers,all former University of Connecticut stars. Center Tina Charles averages adouble-double with 20.5 points and 11 rebounds while guard Renee Montgomery(16.3) and forward Asjha Jones (14.0) handle the perimeter production. Despite receiving 20 and 12 from Charles on Friday, the Sun fell to 85-72 athome game to the undefeated Lynx.Monique Currie, out most of the 2011 season with a knee injury, scored ateam-high 15 points against Chicago and leads Washington in scoring this seasonwith 14.3 points.
For years we’ve heard tales from overseas that suggested that Tomas Satoransky wasn't fond of the Wizards and that he wanted to be left alone while he played in Europe. The implication, of course, was that it was a long shot that he’d even come to the NBA or that he'd prefer to play for another franchise if he did.
Friday, in his first comments on a conference call since agreeing to terms on a three-year deal worth $9 million, Satoransky all but put to rest and confirmed what the Wizards have suggested the entire time. That is, there was a far more common sense tone to negotiations and hardly any of the word-on-the-street reports accurately reflected Satoransky's feelings.
The Wizards spent $650,000 towards his buyout with Barcelona. Anything over that amount, Satoransky has to pay out of his own pocket to come to the NBA.
Since he was drafted in the second round in 2012, the 6-7 combo guard has been a mystery. He played for the Wizards at Las Vegas summer league and then disappeared.
The Wizards, however, were always confident that he’d arrive:
- Satoransky's dream was to play in the NBA, not stay in Europe.
- He needed to get more seasoned and what better place to do so in the Spanish ACB League, the next-best competition to the NBA?
- When Satoransky re-signed with Barcelona earlier this year, that was a security blanket in case he couldn't work out a deal with the Wizards.
- There weren’t any roster spots available in D.C. and he wanted a chance to play. Gone are Andre Miller, Ramon Sessions, Gary Neal and Garrett Temple
- He met frequently with vice president Tommy Sheppard, who was key in closing the deal and always kept the lines of communication open.
Whether or not Satoransky pans out is another matter, but the draft-and-stash process of getting him to D.C. worked the way it ideally should.
The Wizards balked at giving him the full mid-level of $5.5 million two years ago –- used it on Paul Pierce instead –- and decided to pick up the option on Miller as John Wall’s backup.
They weren’t willing to give a second-round pick that kind of money who wasn’t proven in the NBA (Draymond Green, who was drafted in a similar range that year, earned less than $1 million for his first three years).
The Pierce experiment worked out and now they’ve secured Satoransky’s services at almost 50% less than what he originally tried to negotiate in a year when of a salary cap explosion. That doesn't sound like a player who has to have his arm twisted to join the Wizards. It sounds like a player who was waiting for the right time to make the move and a team that manuevered to create a roster opening for him behind Wall and Bradley Beal.
Will the Czech national turn out to be more like Kristaps Porzingis, who had a breakout rookie season for the New York Knicks last year as a lottery pick, or the Wizards' failed lottery pick Jan Vesely?
Satoransky's command of English is far better than Vesely, an indication that his ability to think and process the NBA game should be smoother. He speaks clearly and is easy to understand, but his play has to ultimately do the talking.
"For Kristaps obviously it was a great experience. A positive experience because he became a star right away. I've been in touch with him and I was talking about all that," Satoransky said. "I think he also had a big influcnece on my decision.
"Jan didn't do well like he expected. Kristaps is a different player than Jan becuase he also can shoot the ball great. He's a more complete player. I think both of them had some influence on my decision."
Satoransky appears to understand what's ahead. It's an 82-game season and there's not as much practice time when playing three games in four nights in the NBA. In Europe, a lot of pro teams do two-a-day practices. The rhythm of how things are done day-to-day alone can be a challenge.
"I'm realistic," he said. "I know it will take some time for me to adjust for a new type of game, for an NBA style of game."
The timing of his arrival was near perfect. That alone, however, isn't reason for the Wizards to celebrate. That's just the easy part.
MORE WIZARDS: THIS MUST BE MUSIC TO MARCIN GORTAT'S EARS
The quest for the Stanley Cup doesn't begin on the ice, but during the offseason as general managers build their teams for the upcoming campaign. The Caps have made a number of moves this summer to try to make their team better and get over the playoff hump.
Let's break down and grade each move the team made this offseason to help figure out whether it was the right move for the team.
Today's move: Letting go of Jason Chimera and Michael Latta
It's always sad to see players go, especially one that has been with the team as long as Jason Chimera, but knowing when to walk away is part of the business.
After some struggles in his first season with Barry Trotz, Chimera thrived in the second year, tying a career high in goals with 20. His 40 points in 2015-16 were the second-highest of his career. But at 37 years old, how much could the Caps reasonably expect to get from him next season?
Selling high seems to be a lost art in professional sports. Contracts are supposed to be based on what you believe a player will do, not what he did. Chances are Chimera, a player who's biggest asset is his speed, is not going to hit 40 points again.
Let's also consider what his role would next season. After trading for Lars Eller, the Caps are set at center on all four lines. That means someone either Marcus Johansson or Andre Burakovsky is moving to the third line and bumping Chimera down to the fourth where Daniel Winnik is already set to play. Is Chimera a better fit than Winnik? You could argue that, but Winnik is already under contract and Chimera is not.
Chimera's career year would also mean paying him at least $2 million, money the team no longer had thanks to the Eller deal.
"With the trade for Eller and our RFA guys, Johansson and Orlov, we weren't going to be able get to that two range or above two range," general manager Brian MacLellan said to the media. "You get attached to Chimera, he's been a good player for us, a fun guy to have around, good personality so it's disappointing to see him go, but sometimes you've just got to move on."
The decision to walk away from Michael Latta came early in the offseason when the Caps chose not to offer him a qualifying offer thus making him a free agent.
Latta is a fourth-line player who can play center or wing. With Jay Beagle and Mike Richards playing center, Latta became primarily a wing in the 2015-16 season. He was ultimately bumped out of the lineup as Tom Wilson moved down to right wing on the fourth line and did not appear in a single playoff game in 2016.
Richards is gone, but the trade for Eller will push Beagle to fourth line center. That leaves right wing on the fourth line as the only spot for Latta. Wilson will likely move up to the third line this season, but with the signing of Brett Connolly, the Caps still don't have room for Latta in the lineup. The team could have kept him as a 13th forward to cycle in and out of the lineup, but that appears to be the role Stanislav Galiev will fill again this season.
With a roster as talented as the Caps, you could tell there was going to be a cap squeeze heading into the offseason. The writing was on the wall for Latta when he did not make an appearance in the playoffs. The only thing the Caps are thinking about now is winning in the postseason and if they don't feel Latta helps them there, it makes perfect sense to move on. If Connolly can remain healthy, his upside is much higher than Latta's.
Chimera ultimately played his way out of Washington with his fantastic season. The Caps could not afford to re-sign him at a price anywhere close to what he would have gotten on the market, as his new two-year, $4.5 million deal shows.
The only thing that bumps this down from an A to an A- is losing Chimera's speed. Speed is becoming more and more valuable in the NHL, as the Pittsburgh Penguins showed, and the Caps just lost their fastest player. This was the only option, however, after the team traded for Winnik at the trade deadline. There's just not room for both. If you think Winnik's cap hit is too high for a fourth line player ($2.25 million) they would have had the exact same problem if they re-signed Chimera.
It's sad to see Chimera, a true locker room personality, and brobean Latta leave, but MacLellan didn't really have any choice.
MORE CAPITALS: WILL JOHANSSON BE TAKEN IN THE EXPANSION DRAFT?
Prior to 2016, the notion of having a down season was completely foreign to Ben Revere. All he had been as a big leaguer was the prototypical leadoff man; a sparkplug for the offenses for his previous three teams who hadn’t finished with a batting average lower than .305 since 2013.
But ever since his first regular season swing as a member of the Nationals — one that resulted in an Opening Day oblique injury and a month-long disabled list stint — it seems the 28-year-old centerfielder has spent much of his inaugural campaign in D.C. simply trying to reclaim his old self.
“All [my teammates] say its tough to get your good rhythm in the middle of a season, but I'm out there battling my tail off,” Revere said after an 0-for-5 in Friday night’s 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres. “[I’m] definitely coming off a serious injury that could jeopardize your swing a little bit.”
In the two and a half months since Revere’s return from the DL, he hasn’t set the table atop the order like the Nats need him to, slashing .214/.259/.298 with 19 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 60 games. His strikeouts are down, which is the norm for him, but he’s been unusually ineffective when he does make contact. His batting average of balls in play (BABIP) is .230 — the lowest for any Nats hitter with at least 130 at-bats. A big reason for that is because pitchers have negated his speed by inducing him to hit the ball in the air more often. According to Fangraphs.com, his fly ball percentage is up to 27.1, by far a career-high.
“That’s not his game. They want him up in the air,” manager Dusty Baker said. “They don’t want him on the ground. They don’t want him to the opposite field. They want him in the air.”
“I'm seeing the ball good, just results ain't happening,” Revere said. “Missing some pitches, fouling them off usually, I'll hit the other way, hit it up the middle and bean balls into the ground, usually I get out but at least I hit them hard.”
What’s even tougher for Revere is that the team no longer appears willing to wait out his struggles. Not only has Baker replaced him with Michael Taylor on days when the Nats face off against a lefty starter, but top infield prospect Trea Turner has been learning to play center as a way to get his bat into the lineup instead. And with the non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching, there’s talk that Washington could be in the mix to add another outfielder.
All those factors have added up to a season of frustration for a player who’s rarely faced this kind of adversity.
“[This is my] first time I've gone through this struggle in my professional career,” he said, “I'll be on my knees, keep praying [it gets better]. Hopefully one of these games will get me going and help this team get some more W's.”
The January trade to acquire Revere from the Toronto Blue Jays for struggling reliever Drew Storen was widely viewed as a steal for GM Mike Rizzo. The move doesn't look as good six months later, but there's still enough time left in the season for a rebound.
“Dusty's going to give me plenty of at-bats and I'm going to do everything I can to bust my tail, no matter what," Revere said. "This team, they have my back.”