Defensive lapses equals mounting losses for Mystics

Defensive lapses equals mounting losses for Mystics

When youre the WNBAs lowest scoring team, succeeding on defense is a must. In the Washington Mystics last outing against Atlanta, that was so not the case. Earlier this month against their next opponent, the Mystics had similar issues when it came to allowing points. Off since Friday, the Mystics (5-18) return to action Tuesday night at Indiana, a locale they have little recent success. On August 16, Washington allowed nine 3-pointers while committing 16 turnovers compared to nine assists in an 84-66 loss to the Fever (14-8). Indiana has won four straight games in the series on its home court.Help is on the way though maybe not in time for the Fever. Washington signedWNBA veteran forward and 3-point threat Iziane Castro Marques on Sunday.Starting with the previous setback against the Fever, the Mystics have lost four of five games since returning from the Olympic break. The latest defeat, 81-69 at home against Atlanta is one of those where the final score is not a true indicator of the action. Washington committed nine of its 18 turnovers in the first quarter, trailed by double figures after every quarter and by 28 points in the third quarter. The miscues led directly to 25 points for the Dream, who also scored 40 points in the paint, many on easy buckets."If you can't take care of the ball, you can't make shots,'' said Washington's Monique Currie, who scored 14 points. "We can't get shots, we're not getting back on defense. They had a layup clinic.''Washington sits four games behind Chicago for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.Matee Ajavon scored 16 of her game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter against the Dream, leading a rally that had the Mystics down 77-69 inside the final minute before time ran out."It was pretty tough to come back from that deficit,'' Ajavon said. That loss is pretty hard.''The addition of Castro Marques should at least make putting the ball in the basket less hard for a team averaging only 70 points per game. Signed on Sunday, the nine-year WNBA veteran averaged 10.0 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game for her career. The 6-foot forward helped Atlanta reach consecutive WNBA Finals and shot 54 percent from 3-point range during last years playoffs.Collectively this season the Mystics are shooting 30.6 percent from beyond the arc. Indiana ranks second in the WNBA at 41 percent.Castro Marques sat out the first half of the WNBA season in preparation for the Olympics, but she was kicked off the Brazilian national team for violating team rules.Currie led the Mystics with 12 points in the loss to the Fever this month. Crystal Langhorne, Washingtons leading scorer and rebounder on the season, finished with four points and three rebounds in the loss.Indiana forward Tamika Catchings posted a double-doublewith 14 points and 14 rebounds against Washington earlier this month. The Olympic gold medalist totaled 15 points and nine boards in a 67-66 loss at the Vereizon Center on June 15.

Terps will finish season without center Michal Cekovsky

Terps will finish season without center Michal Cekovsky

Devastating news came out of College Park on Monday, as Maryland Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon announced junior center Michal Cekovsky will be out for the remainder of the season with a fractured ankle.

In the second half of the Terps’ 71-60 loss on the road to No. 11 Wisconsin, Cekovsky had the ball and was making a move toward the basket when he went down hard, clutching his left ankle.

Cekovsky’s season has been plagued with injuries, including missing preseason and the first four games of the regular season with a hamstring injury and then missed more than a month with a foot injury.

“I feel badly for Ceko as he has endured a number of injuries throughout the season,” Turgeon said. “It felt like he was really starting to turn the corner and his best basketball was ahead of him. We anticipate a full recovery for next season and we will be there to support him through the rehabilitation process.”

In just 17 games this season, Cekovsky averaged 7.6 points per game and 13.2 minutes, while shooting 67.1 percent from the field.

The Terps next game is against Minnesota at the XFINITY Center in College Park at 8:30 p.m.

MORE TERPS: Maryland continues to slide down the AP Top 25 poll

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Kings no longer have DeMarcus Cousins to blame for dysfunction

Kings no longer have DeMarcus Cousins to blame for dysfunction

NEW ORLEANS – Now that DeMarcus Cousins is finally gone from the Sacramento Kings, after six-plus long years of failure and acrimony, it’s all on them to prove that the three-time All-Star dubbed “Bad Attitude” was the problem.

In typical Kings fashion, they upstaged the All-Star Game itself Sunday by executing a trade to send Cousins and Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and a first- and second-round draft pick.

This came after repeated assurances that they were sticking with Cousins, and after the roster moves made going into season to put established veterans around him represented some sort of direction. So the Kings' front office, showing the same lack of impulse control that Cousins has with game officials, opted to tear up the blueprint yet again.

Monday, GM Vlade Divac said this at a news conference that made the deal official: “It was time for a change and I decided this was the best direction for the organization. Winning begins with culture and character matters. With the upcoming draft class set to be one of the strongest in a decade, this trade will allow us to build the depth needed for a talented and developing roster moving forward."

The thinly veiled shot at Cousins lacking proper character aside, Divac is going to have a difficult time spinning this into a positive. While what he said might be true, it doesn't appear to be a good return for a known quantity in Cousins, who is averaging a career-high 29.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and a career-high 5.1 assists. For this deal to work out in the Kings' favor, it requires good decision-making from a front office that seems immune to sound judgments.

Do lottery picks Thomas Robinson, Ben McLemore, Willie Cauley-Stein or Jimmer Fredette ring a bell? 

Cousins had eye-popping numbers, but there were drawbacks such as 45.1% field-goal shooting for a 6-11 big man -- at least 10 points below where it should be -- and just a 24-33 record to show for it.  Defensively, Cousins' effort alone leaves much to be desired. But ever since Cousins was taken fifth overall in the 2010 draft, this marriage hasn’t worked for reasons beyond his control, too.

[RELATED: Kings trade DeMarcus Cousins]

Given where the Pelicans (23-34) are, this move represents a no-lose situation for them though it comes with a risk if they're not able to re-sign Cousins in 2018. They landed another All-Star to play next to Anthony Davis and were able to keep point guard Jrue Holiday in the process.

Cousins’ value around the NBA clearly wasn’t as high as most people liked to have believed. And the Kings’ bad roster decisions, trades (see how former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie fleeced them in the Stauskas deal), coaching hires and handling of Cousins had as much to do with his decreasing value as Cousins himself. They undermined their own leverage with him in the market. They contradicted themselves privately and publicly and even outright lied about their commitment to Cousins.

Owner Vivek Ranadive loves Hield as much as he did Stauskas which should be a caution flag. Ranadive is like George Costanza. Whatever his instincts tell him he should do, the correct decision is always the opposite. 

The Kings tried to trade up to acquire Hield last year before New Orleans nabbed him with the No. 6 pick. He averages just 8.6 points and shoots 39.2% from three-point range. 

Stauskas was the No. 8 overall pick of the Kings in 2014. He lasted one season before Ranadive, who made the pick, got bored of him and sent him on his way. Stauskas is now with the Philadelphia 76ers with a career average of 7.1 points and 34.1% shooting from three.

It's difficult to be optimistic about anything that the Kings do. They waived Matt Barnes to facilitate the deal to gt Hield and Evans. And truth be told, despite Barnes' public perception he's regarded as a great teammate and locker room influence by other respected veterans in the league.

Now Cousins has a chance to put another nail in the coffin of the Kings under the Ranadive-Divac regime and prove he wasn't the primary problem. They'll have no one to blame anymore, except each other.

And that means Divac will be the next to go. If Ranadive wants a real GM running his organization, he should give Hinkie a call so he can learn that he's far from the smartest guy in the room. 

He might even learn how to run a respectable NBA franchise for a change.

[RELATED: John Wall reacts to DeMarcus Cousins' trade]