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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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Trade winds, Cousins vs. McCoy

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Trade winds, Cousins vs. McCoy

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 25, 12 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 4
—NFL Combine (3/2) 5
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 51
—NFL Draft (4/27) 61
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 197

The Redskins week that was

Here is my take on some of the week’s top stories from Real Redskins and CSN Mid Atlantic.  

Cousins trade to 49ers could happen at combine, per NFL analyst—The Redskins must decide if they are ever going to sign Kirk Cousins long term. If the answer is no, they must figure out if they are better off having him around for one year prior to losing him without compensation or trying to trade him now. It is possible to simultaneously believe that the Redskins should sign Cousins for the long term but that trading him may be necessary.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

Will McCloughan go defense in 1st round? If the best player available plays defense, he will. If he doesn’t I’m just going to have to shut down Twitter for a while. Or maybe I won’t have to since it will crash.

Under the radar issues for the Redskins—The offseason checklist has more than quarterback, D-line and wide receiver on it. The nine draft picks they have will be critical as they try to build on 2016’s occasionally frustrating results.

Why can't the Redskins sign Garcon and Jackson? That question is easy to answer—with Jamison Crowder due to get an extension next year they will run into cap problems if they bring both of them back. It does look like the numbers will work with one of them coming back, however, and if they do let both walk it will be a head-scratcher.

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

Can McCoy produce similar results at less cost than Cousins? With Colt McCoy under contract for $3 million and a potential Cousins tag costing nearly $24 million some at Redskins Park are wondering if Cousins is eight times better than McCoy and if he’s not, why pay him? This is kind of a silly question, like asking if Trent Williams is 15 times better than Ty Nsekhe or if Josh Norman is 20 times better than Kendall Fuller. The question is, does that player at that key position good enough to play his part in getting the team into the playoffs? McCoy hasn’t proven that he is, while Cousins has been to the playoffs once and just missed last year. The proven ability to do something counts for a lot in the form of the number of zeros in a player’s paycheck.

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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.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' loss to Sixers

5 must-see moments from Wizards' loss to Sixers

Here are five plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 120-112 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night that are worth revisiting...

1. These are in chronological order, but the first highlight from this game is the best one of the night.

John Wall pulled off one of his best dunks of the season, a reverse slam with his left hand. Wall was fouled on the play and knocked down the free throw:

Wall finished with 29 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds.

2. Bradley Beal was the star on an otherwise disappointing night for the Wizards. He dropped 40 points for the fourth time this season. Two of his points came on this stepback jumper that looked like a three-pointer at first:

3. Here's more of Beal. This time he stole a pass and threw it down on the other end:

4. Marcin Gortat had another solid night with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Here was his best play of the night, a two-handed putback slam on a Wall miss:

5. Friday was Bojan Bogdanovic's first game with the Wizards since getting traded to them on Wednesday from the Brooklyn Nets. He was limited to just two points in 18 minutes. And those two points came on a goaltending call:

It just wasn't the Wizards' night, on the court or off of it. In this clip Jason Smith is left hanging on a handshake attempt. Poor Jason:

As mentioned above, Beal had another great game. He just didn't get much help.

[RELATED: Ian Mahinmi leaves Wizards loss to Sixers with back injury]