- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Chamique Holdsclaw is still not 100 percent and will play sparingly tonight, if at all.

Holdsclaw, the Washington Mystics’ leading scorer and the WNBA’s top rebounder, did not participate fully in practice the past two days and is a game-time decision for tonight’s important contest against the Sacramento Monarchs (3-7) at MCI Center.

In all likelihood, Holdsclaw will come off the bench. If she does not play, it will mark the fifth straight game Holdsclaw has sat out because of a strained right hamstring.

“As of right now, no, but things could change depending on what the doctor says,” Holdsclaw said of her starting and playing status. “I feel good, I got up and down a little bit, but I don’t know what they want to do as far as the game. If they want me to play, I’ll definitely give it a shot.”

Holdsclaw has been on the injured list two full weeks and the Mystics (2-5) were eyeing tonight’s game as her return. Since Holdsclaw has been out, the Mystics have gone 1-3.

The Mystics are coming off one of the worst losses in franchise history, a 93-56 drubbing on Saturday by the suddenly improved Detroit Shock. Even a healthy Holdsclaw wouldn’t have prevented the outcome, but the game probably would not have been a 37-point rout.

After the game, Shock coach Bill Laimbeer said “they are lost on offense without [Holdsclaw].”

The Mystics are in a precarious situation. They can rush Holdsclaw back to avoid more embarrassing losses in the short term and risk re-injuring her hamstring, or give her a few more games to get healthy.

“I know it’s improved, it’s nice to see her out here working out, but that’s far from making a decision one way or the other on what we are going to do,” Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said.

The biggest problem is that the Mystics find themselves in last place in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference and really don’t have any more games to give away. Tonight’s game marks the first quarter of the season and separation among teams in the East is already starting.

“We’ve got to bring it, this is our home court, we can’t suffer defeats like that because it really sucks your energy,” Holdsclaw said. “When you go through losses like that, everyone kind of panics, ‘What happened, what did we do, we’re not playing like last year.’”

Last season when Holdsclaw was out with two severe ankle sprains and personal reasons, the Mystics were able to persevere and go 6-6. This season, it doesn’t appear the Mystics can survive without their star.

In their only win of the season without Holdsclaw, the Mystics blew a 16-point second half lead and found themselves trailing 58-57 to the San Antonio Silver Stars with eight minutes left last Tuesday. Clutch free throwing shooting and solid defense down the stretch enabled the Mystics to recover for a 79-72 victory.

Holdsclaw’s absence hurts most on the boards, where opponents are outrebounding the Mystics by four a game. Unable to control the defensive glass, the Mystics can’t run the break. Undersized to begin with, the Mystics are best in transition.

In the Mystics’ season-opening 74-70 win at Charlotte, Holdsclaw set a WNBA record with 24 rebounds. The next game, a 71-60 loss at Indiana, Holdsclaw scored her 2,000th point and grabbed her 1,000th career rebound with her 17-point and 12-rebound performance, the 41st double-double of her career.

“The first night [rebounding] was great and a big part of that was Chamique, but it can’t just all fall on her, everybody else has to be accountable and take responsibility for making it better than average consistently and great on occasion,” Stanley said.

Notes — After second returns of the WNBA All-Star balloting, Holdsclaw is the second-leading vote-getter among Eastern Conference forwards with 39,299 votes for the July12 WNBA All-Star Game at New York’s Madison Square Garden. … Center Murriel Page passed a personal milestone over the weekend, topping 1,000 rebounds for her career with her game-high 11 in the Mystics’ 84-70 loss at the Connecticut Sun last Friday. Page now has 1,009 rebounds in her sixth WNBA season.

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