- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2000

The Mystics insist they are trying to make the playoffs.

They could have fooled their three or four supporters in the area older than the age of 12.

The Mystics have lost six of their last eight games as they attempt to make the playoffs against their will.

The WNBA requires four postseason teams from the Eastern Conference, despite the lack of interest in the fourth spot from the Mystics and the Shock.

Both teams are 13-18, and the tie goes to the Mystics. That means the Mystics still control their destiny, as if theirs is a destiny worth controlling.

The Mystics have been charged with trying to back into the playoffs. That qualifies as praise in their case.

The Mystics have at least one element in their favor, the team in Detroit. The Shock have it in them to lose one more game, especially against the conference-leading Liberty.

Chamique Holdsclaw, one of Nike's props in the marketing of Marion Jones, does not have Nancy Darsch to kick around any longer. The team couldn't win with Darsch. They can't win without her, either.

Darrell Walker, who cleans up all the messes in the organization, is the team's interim coach, which is starting to be a habit for him. He held the same title with the Wizards. He possibly could have made it three interim positions in one year if Abe Pollin still owned the Caps.

Holdsclaw blamed Darsch at one point in the season after discussing it with Pat Summitt, whose career record in the WNBA is 0-0. Now the Mystics are blaming their lack of efficiency on the absence of Andrea Nagy, although Walker did not appear to be too happy with the point guard while she was healthy.

At least Nikki McCray still sings a good game. In fact, she carries a tune better than she carries a team.

The singing guard favored the blues two seasons ago, in the bad, old days of 3-27. The Mystics apparently are still recovering from 1998, judging by their no-show in Cleveland on Sunday. They were down by 25 points at halftime, although no one ever has confused the Rockers with the Comets or Sparks, and center Tausha Mills, in nine productive minutes, finished with one flagrant foul, one ejection and a couple of security guards at her side.

The Mystics are only one of the WNBA's quality-control problems, if you count the four expansion teams and all their lookalikes. Attendance is down, the financial losses are up, and Ticha Penicheiro is a symbol of the fluff being passed off as substance.

Penicheiro, like Jason Williams, often dispenses a pass to the open spectator sitting at courtside instead of to a teammate. The bad looks good, so Penicheiro must be good. The thinking is in the epidemic stage.

Cynthia Cooper, who has carried the WNBA for nearly four seasons, is threatening to retire, if only to find relief from Sheryl Swoopes. The loss might be a gain for Van Chancellor, the coach who referees the Cooper-Swoopes conflict.

The WNBA is up to 16 teams, which is about 12 or 13 teams more than necessary, given the shallowness of the pool of talent. Three or four teams do not constitute a league, of course, and the WNBA exists only because of David Stern's charity, prompted by the advent of the American Basketball League in 1996. The ABL eventually died, and as far as mercy killings go, Dr. Jack Kevorkian's presence would have been redundant.

The ABL found, as all the women's leagues before it found, that a high number of missed layups, turnovers and vision-impaired players do not appeal to the masses. You can go to the local gym for that. Or to a game involving two teams from the WNBA.

The Mystics fit in with the crowd, perhaps out of peer pressure. They are the Dead Team Walking, and walking with the ball is only one of their violations.

The latter apparently is Darsch's fault, if not the fault of Jim Lewis, Cathy Parson, Gar Heard and Tony Cheng's neighborhood.

When in doubt, strike up the band and permit the singing guard to belt out the lyrics.

You take production anyway you can get it if you're the Mystics.

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