Final second proving worst second for Mystics

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Final second proving worst second for Mystics

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.

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Morning tip: How Wizards plan to develop another young player in Chris McCullough

Morning tip: How Wizards plan to develop another young player in Chris McCullough

The phone kept ringing, and even when Chris McCullough's agent told him that he had been traded to the Wizards the 6-10 big man didn't believe it.

"It definitely caught me off-guard. It was unexpected," said McCullough, who arrived after the Wizards practiced Thursday and joined them for their first post-All-Star Game at the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday. "I was sleeping when it happened. My phone just started ringing, ringing, ringing. I finally answered it. I got a text saying I was traded to the Wizards. I thought my agent was messing with me."

McCullough, who was acquired in a deal that also sent Brooklyn Nets teammate Bojan Bogdanovic to Washington, has spent most of his second NBA season with the Long Island Nets, playing for the D-League. He had to take a pair of two-hour flights to get to D.C. from Grand Rapids, Mich.

Before he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in a game January 2015, five months before the NBA draft. The Nets still took him 29th overall in the first round. 

"People had projected him as a possible lottery pick," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. "He’s still coming back off of that injury. He’s 6-foot-10, runs the floor well, he can shoot the basketball, very athletic and he has some upside. We’re going to try to develop him. We’re going to try to work with him and how much he develops we’ll see. It’s really going to be up to him."

MORE WIZARDS: 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT CHRIS MCCULLOUGH

McCullough's NBA experience is limited because of the injury. He was able to recover in time during his rookie season to play in 24 games. He averaged 4.7 points and 2.8 rebounds when he averaged 15.1 minutes. This season, under a new coach, he only has played in 14 games and averaged just 5.1 minutes in 2.5 points and 1.2 rebounds before logging most of his action in the D-League.

"I’m going to try to do the little things, be the guy who hustles the most, diving on the floor for loose balls, anything to (help) my team win," McCullough said. "I like to run the floor, rebound. Hopefully John Wall throws me some (lobs). I’m ready for it."

Just turning 22, McCullough is the type of player the Wizards are willing to invest time in under coach Scott Brooks (see undrafted rookies Danuel House, Daniel Ochefu and Sheldon Mac). They were less likely to do it previously because then-coach Randy Wittman preferred proven veterans. 

Development is a major part of Brooks' lure.

"I did not know much about him. He has good size. Athletic, working on his outside shot," Brooks said. "He's a young, developing player. We don't know what he can be. But I know with myself and our staff, and how we approach all of our players, we're going to push him and demand that he keeps getting better and improving and see how far we can get him. It's not just a throw-in (for the trade). It's somebody we're going to see how good we can get him and we go from there."

McCullough sees himself developing into one of the league's most sought-after assets.

"Be a stretch four," he said. "I think I’m that now. ... I have no idea how good I’m going to be yet."

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Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins called a 'mercenary' and that's a good thing

Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins called a 'mercenary' and that's a good thing

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 24, 13 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 5
—NFL Combine (3/2) 6
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 52
—NFL Draft (4/27) 62
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 198

Friday quick hitters

What about Baker? I’m not sure what the Redskins’ thinking is regarding Chris Baker. As with all their other free agents the Redskins haven’t been in communication with Baker’s camp, waiting for the chance to scope out the market at the combine next week. I think that Baker’s fate will depend on cost. If they can get in for around $7 million or less, he stays. If the bidding pushes his deal up much higher than that I think he’s gone.

McCloughan’s status: It’s not exactly news that Scot McCloughan doesn’t have the full powers that many NFL GMs have. He has always been more of a super scout, in charge of stocking the roster. He is not frozen out when it comes to contracts and financial matters but they never have been his strong suit and they are best left to Bruce Allen and, particularly, Eric Schaffer.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

Anything new? So, was there much new in Jerry Brewer’s column in the Post yesterday? Given that the power structure has been in place for over two years now, it doesn’t appear that there was. Brewer essentially said it himself: “McCloughan isn’t necessarily losing power as much as he is having his lack of power revealed.” So during this past two years, while the team improved from 4-12 to playoff contention, things have been how they are now. Let me be clear, there were some disturbing insights in Brewer’s article such as the team’s lack of a response to a request for comment on Chris Cooley’s on-air musing about McCloughan’s alcohol consumption. But on how things work on the organizational chart at Redskins Park it’s been the same.

Who wants Kirk? We are at a point where the popular perception among the fans and media is that Allen is the one who will run Kirk Cousins out of town, either this year or next, while McCloughan and Jay Gruden are begging for him to stay. The narrative is that Allen is the bad buy and McCloughan is the good guy because that’s the way fans and some in the media perceive it. But I would pump the brakes on the notion that McCloughan is willing to pay whatever it takes to keep Cousins around. We haven’t heard from him this year but last year he said on multiple occasions that while he was interested in keeping Cousins around for the long haul the team needs to be careful not to give up too much of the salary cap to one player. That doesn’t sound like he’s all in on giving Cousins a blank check.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Cousins is right to go for the money: Some fans in my Twitter timeline are calling for Cousins to take less money from the Redskins to help Allen and McCloughan pay other players. That’s not happening, nor should it. Jim Trotter of ESPN referred to Cousins as a “mercenary” and he meant it in a positive way. What he is doing is using the NFL system to maximize his earnings potential. Look around at what has been happening around the NFL over the last few weeks, with players getting dumped when they are no longer of use to their teams—and instances of players getting cut will increase exponentially soon—and you should understand why there’s not anything wrong with a player getting as much money as he can while he can. If you add in the short careers they have and the risk that they might spend the last 40-plus years of your life having trouble getting out of bed every morning or sufferig from worse problems and you still don't get it, I can't help you. Cousins should get as much money as he can and it's the job of the team that voluntarily pays him that to figure out how to make it work around him. 

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.