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.
The Wizards held their first day of 2017-18 training camp on Tuesday on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. Here's what you need to know...
Robinson is injured
The NBA career of Wizards' forward Devin Robinson did not get off to a great start. He has an unspecified foot injury that is expected to sideline him for the foreseeable future. Robinson wasn't walking with a limp, but sat out of practice and Brooks said the rookie does not have a timetable to return.
Scott is a huge Redskins fan
New Wizards forward Mike Scott is a massive Redskins fan and not just in a casual sense. The guy plans to get a Redskins tattoo some time in the near future (he has tons of tattoos already, including lots of emojis) and probably speaks for the rest of the fanbase when he says he's taking a wait-and-see approach. When someone (me) mentioned how the Skins finally have a defense, he cautioned that it was just one game. He has to see them repeat that performance on Monday Night Football against the Chiefs before he completely buys in. Though Scott is now playing for his hometown team in the Wizards, he will be outnumbered by Cowboys fans in the Wizards' locker room. John Wall and Markieff Morris are huge Dallas fans and are not afraid to show it.
Brooks did better this time
The Wizards met as a team on Monday night after media day on the eve of training camp and there is a big difference in Brooks from Year 1 to Year 2, at least in the players' eyes.
"John [Wall] brought to my attention how I did a much better job at the team dinner. He said I looked a little nervous last year," Brooks said.
"Last night with our team meeting, I even told him last year 'you seem like you're a little bit more comfortable," Bradley Beal added. "Last year he didn't know what to expect from us and we were just trying to get to know him. We know who he is and what he's capable of. We know what he wants from us so everything is a lot smoother."
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Oubre added two inches to his vertical
Kelly Oubre, Jr. mentioned at media day on Monday how he added to his vertical this offseason. He revealed today that he added two inches. It was all through hard work, but extra impressive considering he began the offseason recovering from platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment.
Beal comments on FBI case involving college coaches
A major sports news story broke just before the Wizards took the court on Tuesday, that four NCAA assistant coaches and others like an apparel company executive have been implicated in an investigation of bribery and other charges. Beal was a star player at the University of Florida before the Wizards drafted him third overall in 2012. He was asked about the allegations. They didn't involve his former school or anything, but he had an interesting take:
"I was always by-the-book, even in my recruiting process. I had coaches who wanted to offer me stuff or offer my family stuff, but that wasn't what I was about and that wasn't what my family was about. At the end of the day, I went to a program where Coach [Billy Donovan] didn't guarantee my anything. He didn't guarantee I was going to start or that I was going to play. That was something that I respected. Coming out of college, I was actually about to go back to college. I decided to come out on the last deadline day. For me, it wasn't like that. It's crazy what today's generation is like. Kids are taking stuff in high school, taking things in college and stuff like that. For me, my story wasn't like that."
Frazier is fitting in well
Tim Frazier is already one of the more vocal guys on the team, trash-talking both on the court and off of it. He was also hitting his three-point shot consistently in practice. Perhaps he has improved that part of his game from year to year.
Beal already thinks Frazier will help the Wizards' bench fix their reputation.
"You guys are going to be surprised. You killed our bench last year. You killed our bench," he said. "These guys are really working their tails off. They know the game and they play it the right way. That's what we need. Guys are going to defend, for sure, and get after it. They challenge us as starters... last year it was like one of us always had to be on the floor, but it won't be like that this year... last year was definitely tough on us and it weared on us down the line."
Morris still absent
Markieff Morris is not with the team yet following the sports hernia surgery he had on Friday.
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The Capitals made another round of cuts on Tuesday afternoon, reassigning three players to Hershey, waiving two more and releasing another.
Forward Riley Barber, defenseman Colby Williams and goalie Parker Milner were sent to the Bears, while forwards Liam O’Brien and Zach Sill were place on waivers with the intention of sending them to Hershey.
Defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka, who was signed to a tryout agreement earlier this month, was released from his PTO.
None of the moves were surprising given the lines and pairs in practice the past couple of days.
Here’s what the roster looks like now:
The Caps host New Jersey on Wednesday, then close out the exhibition slate with games at Carolina on Friday and at St. Louis on Sunday.
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