Mystics aim Sky high for season opener

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Mystics aim Sky high for season opener

With their season set to tipoff Saturday night at the Verizon Center, the Washington Mystics can truly put the 2011 campaign behind them.That's a good thing. After finishing tied for the best record in the WNBA's Eastern Conference in 2010, the Mystics win total plummeted. Beset by injuries and inexperience, the recorddropped to a dismal 6-28. Not surpisingly, massive changes followed; only four players return, including all-star forward and former University of Maryland star Crystal Langhorne.The new roster put together by second-year coach and general manager Trudi Lacey boasts size plus veteran presence up front and in the backcourt. The first chance to see what the revamped squad is all about comes at 7 p.m. against the Chicago Sky. Here's what else you need to know about the new-look Mystics:Who's back: It all starts with Langhorne, who led the Mystics in scoring (18.2), rebounding and field goal percentage last season. The 6-foot-2 forward's scoring average has risen in each of first four WNBA seasons despite being the constant focus of opposing defenses. Help on the wing comes from the return of small forward Monique Currie (Bullis), who missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury. In 2010, the crafty scorer averaged 14.1 points and shot 45 percent from beyond the arc. In the Mystics preseason finale, Currie tallied 19 points and sank both of her 3-point attempts. Good sign indeed.Matee Ajavon took over the off-guard last season and finished second in scoring behind Langhorne. Dealing with a sore knee limited her during training camp while rising second-year point guard Jasmine Thomas missed time with knee tendinitis.Who's new: Seven of the Mystics 11 roster spots are filled with new faces. The acquistion of 6-foot-5 Michelle Snowstands out as the most prominent. The 10-year pro, along with former Seattle Storm shot blocker Crystal Robinson, will provide Langhorne protection inside plus a fiercer presence in the paint and on the glass. Center LaToya Pringle and forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton round out the frontcourt.Dominque Canty's 13-years of WNBA experience puts the quarterbacking of the Mystics up-tempo offense into veteran hands. She will also serve as mentor to Thomas, a first-round pick last season. Three-point threat Noelle Quinn and Natasha Lacy add punch off the bench.Then there is rookie Natalie Novosel, one ofthe Mystics twofirst-round picks, but the only one to make the final roster. The gritty anddurable5-foot-11 guardkeyedNotre Dame's run to thenational championship game and she will earn minutes as a defensive stalwart. Novosel also shot 41 percent from 3-point range combined over her last two seasions with the Irish.Where's Alana: After two injury plagued seasons, Alana Beard, the Mystics' all-time leading scorer, moved on during free agency.Beard signed with the Los Angeles Sparks, where she will be reunited with former Mystics Marissa Coleman and Nicky Anosike.The opponent: Like the Mystics,the Skyalso missed the postseason last year. Like the Mystics, the Sky also did not stand pat, adding former all-stars Swin Cash and Ticha Penicheiro. Like the Mystics, it all starts inside for the Sky with the reigning WNBA defensive player of the year and 2012 Olympian Sylvia Fowles. The 6-foot-6 center averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds last season. Speaking of last season, the Sky swept the Mystics in four games.What's the outlook:If Lacey has her way, this team will run more, play sharing is caring basketball and offer greater resistance on the defensive end. The coach said 15 of the team's losses last season came down to thefinal two or three possessions. With all the new but experienced hands, well, on hand, expect better results in the clutch. Barring the unforeseen, don't count on another six-win season. Then again, the East is stacked so even noticeable improvement on the court might not lead to the playoffs. Then again, change is in the air.

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A handy-dandy guide to the Caps' free agents

A handy-dandy guide to the Caps' free agents

If you are a fan of the Capitals, you have been hearing for a long time about how difficult this offseason is going to be because of how many expiring contracts the team has. There are a bunch and it can be hard to keep track of.

Luckily, we are here for you. Here is a handy-dandy guide to all of the Caps' pending free agents.

Why is everyone assuming Evgeny Kuznetsov will be re-signed but keeping T.J. Oshie will be difficult? Who is unrestricted and restricted? What are the chances players like Daniel Winnik and Brett Connolly return?

We have all the answers. Check out the guide to Caps free agency here and impress your friends with all your hockey knowledge.

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Scott Brooks outlines one area of Wizards' offense that can improve this offseason

Scott Brooks outlines one area of Wizards' offense that can improve this offseason

Improving on offense next season from the last will not be easy for the Washington Wizards after the strides they made during their 2016-17 campaign. They were just that good.

In their first season under head coach Scott Brooks, the Wizards put up some serious offensive numbers. Here is a sample of where they ranked in the NBA:

109.2 PPG, 5th
111.2 Off. Rtg., 7th
47.5 FG%, 3rd
52.8 eFG%, 6th
41.3 FG/G, 2nd
87 FGA/G, 10th
23.9 AST/G, 6th
37.2 3PT%, 8th

The Wizards scored more points per game than any of the teams Brooks previously coached in Oklahoma City. Consider some of the Thunder teams he had with Russell Westbrook, who was first in the NBA in scoring this season, James Harden (2nd) and Kevin Durant (12th), and that is quite impressive. The Wizards at one point this year scored 100 points or more in 23 straight games and none of his OKC teams did that, either.

[RELATED: Top free agent shooting guards who could help Wizards, Beal]

All but one of those above categories, assists per game, marked an improvement for Washington from the season before. Not listed, though, are two major outliers. Despite ranking eighth in three-point percentage, the Wizards were just 16th in three-point makes and 20th in attempts. Those are things Brooks would like to see change in 2017-18.

"Our three-point shooting, I would like to make a few more," Brooks said. "Those are things that [GM] Ernie [Grunfeld] and I will discuss this offseason continues. We will figure out ways to improve our team."

The Wizards could improve on those categories from within, if Otto Porter re-signs and shoots more often and others like Markieff Morris, John Wall, Jason Smith and Kelly Oubre, Jr. continue to become more accurate. If they bring back Bojan Bogdanovic, the potential will certainly be there to rain threes with the best of them.

But clearly the Wizards will make at least some changes to their roster.

"I know that we will add pieces. Like every team and every year, you try to get better. You try to figure out how you can get better," Brooks said.

The most likely spot to make a change is at backup guard where they could use help behind Wall and Bradley Beal. The Wizards had Brandon Jennings as their primary backup during the playoffs and he was not a threat from three.

If three-point shooting is a big priority as they search for reserve guards, that would help the cause for guys like Patty Mills, Ian Clark and J.J. Reddick in free agency. The Wizards do have one draft pick, the 52nd overall selection in the second round, but it's highly unlikely they find a readymade three-point threat that late in the draft.

The Wizards were good at shooting threes in 2016-17, but clearly Brooks would like to see them take another step.

[RELATED: Top free agent point guards who could help Wizards, Wall]