Mystics-Liberty preview

Mystics-Liberty preview

The matchup: The two teams currently on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture also own the longest losing streaks in the WNBA. One of those skids comes to an end when the Washington Mystics travel to face the New York Liberty on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Mystics (5-20) returned from the Olympic break with a slim chance at a playoff berth. Losing four straight and six of seven since has not helped their cause. Washington sits 4.5 games behind Chicago, currently the fourth and final seed, and four back of New York.The road has not been kind to the Mystics, who have dropped 12 of 13 away from the Verizon Center. However the one victory came at New York immediately before the break, a stunning 70-53 win behind 24 points from Crystal Langhorne. Since then, five straight road losses, four by at least 15 points.The Liberty (9-16), losers of three straight, committed 21 turnovers and shot 32 percent from the field in the previous loss to the Mystics. Cappie Pondexter, the WNBAs leading scorer with 20.7 points per game, averaged 23.5 points in two games against the Mystics this season including 25 in a June win at Washington.Last time out: Holding a two-point lead at halftime, the Mystics lost their way during the second half at Atlanta, outscored by the new-look Dream 51-28 over the final two quarter. Despite playing without the leading scorer Angel McCoughtry, suspended for a team violation, Atlanta gave new head coach Fred Williams his first victory by scoring 24 fast-break points compared to Washingtons eight and opening the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run. We turned the ball over which led to some easy baskets for them, Mystics coach and general manager Trudi Lacey said. The other piece of it is we fouled and got them on the free throw line. When you play with that combination it leads to easy points for the other team.Monique Currie scored a team-high 14 points and Crystal Langhorne had 13 for the Mystics, who have lost their last three games by an average of 16.6 points.Consistent Currie: Since returning from the Olympic break, the Mystics small forward has reached double digit points in six of seven games yet did not tally more than 14 points in any game during that span. Washingtons second-leading scorer on the season (10.7) had seven such outings in 18 games before the break, including a season-high 21 points against Connecticut, but also scored in single-digit scoring seven times. Currie is averaging 11.4 points during the second half of the season along with 1.7 steals.

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Kirk Cousins sounded optimistic about contract talks with Redskins

Kirk Cousins sounded optimistic about contract talks with Redskins

Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins repeatedly sounded optimistic about his ongoing contract negotations with the organization, though he acknowledged the talks will probably go until the last minute.

"Deadlines do deals," Cousins said.

Speaking Wednesday to the media after an OTA session, Cousins explained that talks with the Redskins have been positive and ongoing. He also admitted that he doesn't expect a deal to get finished before the July 15th franchise tag deadline.

In 2016, conversations between the Redskins and Cousins largely broke down before the tag deadline. That seems to be a different story in 2017, and while it may only be a glimmer of hope, it's an encouraging development for Washington fans that want to keep their passer. 

"It's been very positive," he said. Of July 15th, Cousins said, "it will be a telling date, as it was last summer."

Over the last two seasons as starter, Cousins has thrown for more than 9,000 yards, twice breaking the franchise single-season passing record. In 2015, Cousins emerged in the second half of the year to play some terrific football and lead the Redskins to a division title. In 2016, Cousins never quite hit the same highs as 2015, but was much more consistent and piled up passing yards. 

Redskins team president Bruce Allen said earlier this week he remains positive about a long-term deal for Cousins. Allen maintained that talks are ongoing with Cousins' representatives, and similarly to Cousins, expects the bulk of the talks closer to July 15th.

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John Wall on Wizards' search for a backup point guard, whether he will recruit free agents

John Wall on Wizards' search for a backup point guard, whether he will recruit free agents

Each time John Wall and the Wizards have made the playoffs, they have advanced past the first round and fallen in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Each time they were competitive enough in those second round series - against the Pacers, Hawks and Celtics - to have many thinking bigger, about a chance to meet LeBron James in the conference finals. Yet each time they were ultimately defeated over the course of a long and hard-fought series.

Wall believes he knows why they fell short each time. He thinks there is a common theme to all of those series that the Wizards must address this offseason.

"We need to help our bench," Wall told CSN's Chris Miller. "Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played."

For anyone who has watched the Wall-led Wizards over the years, it's not hard to decipher exactly what he was talking about. For years the Wizards have searched for a competent backup to Wall at the guard position and the same could be said about the roster behind his backcourt teammate Bradley Beal this past season. As a result, Wall was asked to play 44 minutes in Game 7 and Beal played 46, respectively.

Even with their season on the line, that is not preferred. Celtics guard Marcus Smart even said publicly that he thought it led to a dropoff in Wall's game.

[RELATED: Wizards hope to sign Wall to contract extension]

The Wizards' quest for help behind Wall took several different turns over the last calendar year. They tried to address the position by bringing Tomas Satoransky over from Europe and trading for Trey Burke last summer. Both were inconsistent through the first half of the season, so they signed Brandon Jennings as a free agent once he was waived by the Knicks. Jennings showed flashes and did some things right, like continue to push the pace when Wall was off the floor. But even Jennings admits he didn't play well against Boston.

Back in the 2013-14 season, the first time Wall made the playoffs, the original plan for his backup was Eric Maynor. That didn't work out, so they traded for veteran Andre Miller in February. The following season, with Miller not working out, they shipped him out for Ramon Sessions, also at the trade deadline.

Now, here the Wizards are, once again trying to find a solution at backup point guard. Wall continues to remain patient, knowing it's not as easy as it looks.

"Every point guard that we have, you can't expect them to go out there and do what I do. Every guy that has backed me up has done a great job, in my opinion. It might not help us as much as everybody thinks, but that's up to the front office to make the adjustment there," he said.

The Wizards have several options to pursue Wall's backup. They could promote from within and expand Satoransky's role. They can use their lone draft pick, a second round selection at 52nd overall. They could try to orchestrate another trade. Or, they could go the free agent route, though depending on what happens to restricted free agents like Otto Porter and Bojan Bogdanovic, their money could be limited.

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

If it is free agency, don't expect Wall to play an active role in the recruitment pitch.

"I don't think I have to do that. They understand and see what we do as a team over here: how we play together, how we move the ball. I think guys will just come if they want to come," Wall said.

Wall knows the Wizards need help, but believes they are very close to where they want to go.

"We have our main core guys. I think adding a couple little pieces here and there will help us get over the hump," he said. "Even with all that, we still feel like we had a chance by getting to a Game 7. We had a 50-50 chance of getting to the Eastern Conference Finals. We were one game away. We couldn't ask for more."

For more on the Wizards' offseason, listen to the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast: