- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2001

The Washington Mystics have six Sydney Olympians a coach and five players with the team. Individually, they represent some of the best basketball their countries have to offer. Together, they play the worst basketball in the WNBA.
"There's a complex set of factors," Washington general manager Melissa McFerrin said yesterday after returning from Houston, site of the Mystics' eighth straight loss. "I can't point to any one thing."
The Mystics have three attendance banners hanging from MCI Center's rafters, but a championship banner is the ultimate objective.
"I stated as my goal at the beginning of the season that I wanted to have homecourt advantage in the playoffs," McFerrin said.
The Mystics first need to stop playing like an expansion team.
With Wednesday night's 76-63 loss to the Comets, the Mystics (2-9) tied the second-longest losing streak in franchise history, endured during the league's first season in 1998.
Three more losses an avoidable fate with the mediocre Utah Starzz (5-5) and Orlando Miracle (4-7) visiting tonight and Sunday, respectively and Washington ties the team- and league-high skid of 11 games from the same year.
McFerrin concedes that the 2001 Mystics look a little too much like the 1998 version.
"It does appear that way," she said. "I don't think there's an answer as to why."
One possible reason is the lack of production from the point guard spot.
In the Mystics' losing streak, guard Helen Luz has scored more off the bench than starter Nikki McCray while playing fewer minutes. The Brazilian averages 8.9 points in 17.75 minutes. McCray, playing 24.25 minutes, posts an average of 8.1 points.
McFerrin was quick to defend McCray, an All-Star.
"We rely on [McCray] on both ends [of the floor]," McFerrin said. "She's one of the better defenders in the league."
But Luz has 13 steals and three blocks, while McCray has just nine steals and zero blocks.
Obviously, the Mystics haven't gotten the lift they anticipated when they selected guard Coco Miller with the ninth pick in the 2001 WNBA Draft she is averaging 0.7 points. By contrast, second-round pick Semeka Randall, whom the Mystics and several other teams passed up, has given the Seattle Storm an average of 11.8 points as a starter.
Then there's Tausha Mills, hyped as "Baby Shaq" when the Mystics selected her with the second pick in the 2000 draft. The 6-foot-2 center is averaging 1.3 points and has been shut out in five of her 10 appearances. On Monday against the Minnesota Lynx, two of the four shots she missed were point-blank.
"She's learning to play the game at this level, both physically and mentally," McFerrin said. "It's a huge step to come from college into this league."
But Mills has been a professional for three years she came to the Mystics after a yearlong stint with the Chicago Condors of the ABL.
Also, the Mystics have chosen to go without an everyday true center and earlier this month severed ties with the only one on their roster, waiving 6-foot-5 Jennifer Whittle for the the second time in two years so they could activate French guard Audrey Sauret.
Washington's two post players, Mills and 6-foot-3 starting center Vicky Bullett, often are at severe disadvantages in the paint.
Because coach Tom Maher's transition offense often starts with a defensive rebound and outlet pass, the Mystics' offensive success depends heavily on rebounding by the frontcourt.
Instead, it's All-Star small forward Chamique Holdsclaw who is best when she attacks the hoop pulling down a team-high 7.5 defensive rebounds a game.
Bullett has managed an average of 4.0 defensive boards, and the team has managed eight straight losses.

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