As the morning practice session came to an end, the Mystics players gathered at center court for the traditional close - hands in the center and a collective “Mystics” cheer.
The door to the practice court swung open, and in walked Crystal Langhorne. She was on crutches and her left foot was bandaged, but she made it to center court just in time to be a part of the closing ritual with her teammates.
It was a moment with an almost symbolic feel. As Langhorne limps on crutches, the Washington Mystics are limping to the finish line in one of the worst seasons in franchise history. The team will play their final home game of the season on Friday against the Indiana Fever and will finish the season on the road against the Chicago Sky on Saturday.
Langhorne, the team’s best player, is done for the year. They have the league’s worst record (5-27), and are mired in an 11-game losing streak. Asked to sum up the season going into the final two games, center Michelle Snow shook her head in silence for several seconds as she struggled to find the right words.
“Life lessons,” Snow said. “Just life lessons. First losing season, you see things from a totally different perspective. You realize how hard it is to overcome some of the mental battles.”
Snow, an 11-year veteran, said she’s never had a losing season in her career, dating back to her days in high school. Prior to joining the Mystics this year, Snow spent seven seasons in Houston and one season each in Atlanta, San Antonio and Chicago.
“You find yourself constantly trying to keep your confidence and keep your head in the right place so you can be productive and contribute to your team. It’s depressing. It’s hard to deal with. But I’m glad because it taught me a lot of new characteristics that maybe I needed to learn.”
For Monique Currie, the struggles are all too familiar. Currie has spent all but one of her seven WNBA seasons in Washington. Currie played her first season in Charlotte and was drafted by Chicago when the Sting folded in 2007. The Sky traded Currie to the Mystics.
Currie was an integral part of the team’s best regular season, averaging 14.1 points during the 22-12 season in 2010, but appeared in just four games last season after recovering from a torn ACL.
“This season especially has been one of the most difficult for myself, the most frustrating that I’ve been a part of in my seven year career,” Currie said. “But you have to take the highs with the lows. It’s something I’d rather not experience again, but I’m still getting to do what I love and that’s play basketball and I’m very grateful for that.”
The Mystics will need to win one of their final two games just to tie last season’s 6-28 mark – the second-worst in franchise history. The worst-ever finish was 3-27, the record in their inaugural season in 1998.
“The season’s not over yet,” said Mystics coach Trudi Lacey. “We’re still working on things, still looking to improve, still teaching, so that’s our focus.”
Lacey is completing her second season as the team’s head coach and general manager, after serving as an assistant in 2009 and 2010, and says she hasn’t spoken with team officials about her future with the organization.
A life coach as well as a basketball coach, Lacey concedes that this season hasn’t gone the way she’d expected, but hopes she has imparted some wisdom on her players along the way.
“It’s all about your integrity,” Lacey said. “The one life lesson I hope I have taught them is about integrity and honoring your word and your work and holding yourself to a different standard. Regardless of the outcome, we have done that for ourselves for the game and for our fans.”