- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2005

The Washington Mystics will seek to move forward in their final preseason game tonight while getting a first-hand view of their past.

Chamique Holdsclaw, the most renowned player in Mystics history and the face of the franchise the last six seasons, will be on the opposing bench when the Los Angeles Sparks play the Mystics at MCI Center.

“It is going to be different seeing her in a different uniform,” Mystics guard Alana Beard said. “I grew up watching her. … It’s going to be, ‘Hey, ‘Mique, how you doing?’ and get on with [the game].”

Said Washington center Chasity Melvin, who joined the team Saturday after finishing an MVP season in Israel: “It will be hard for the fans and everybody.”

Holdsclaw forced a trade in the offseason after a bizarre season in which she played 23 games and then left the team for an unnamed medical reason, which she later disclosed was depression. The 6-foot-2 forward was a three-time All-Star in Washington, led the WNBA in scoring (19.9) and rebounding (11.6) in 2002 and again led the league in rebounding with a 10.9 average in 2003.

However, she took the Mystics to the playoffs only twice (not including last season, when the team rallied to make the postseason without her), to the Eastern Conference finals once and never to the title series. Now, she is a member of the WNBA’s elite franchise, which includes reigning league MVP Lisa Leslie and All-Star point guard Nikki Teasley. The Sparks have won two league titles and lost last season’s championship series to Connecticut.

“I want to be somewhere where I’m playing with great players and we can go out there and make things happen,” Holdsclaw told the Los Angeles Times. “For once since I’ve been in the pros, to have some excitement. I’m excited to be here. I know it’s going to be hard work, but this is where I wanted to be.”

Holdsclaw, 27, is showing signs of her old self after scoring a team-high 24 points on 12-for-17 shooting in the Sparks’ preseason win over San Antonio. The Mystics swapped her to Los Angeles for DeLisha Milton-Jones and a first-round draft pick (13th overall), which was then shipped to Detroit for 6-foot-5 center Iciss Tillis.

The Mystics’ main attraction now is Beard, who was limited for two weeks in training camp with a hamstring injury and missed last week’s 81-72 loss at Houston. The second-year guard, who averaged 13.1 points last season, said she was able to “explode” off her leg for the first time yesterday and hopes to play tonight.

“I hope there are no repercussions [from the workout],” first-year Mystics coach Richie Adubato said. “It was nice having her out there. She can create.”

With Tillis back from Spain and Melvin reporting to camp over the weekend, the team has four of its likely starters. Milton-Jones, still in Spain, is part of Adubato’s working lineup with Melvin, Tillis, Beard and an undetermined shooting guard. Tamicha Jackson made a strong case for the spot by scoring 19 points in 21 minutes against the Comets.

Notes — Mike Bibby is the new coach of the Sparks. The former Southern Cal coach replaced Michael Cooper, who coached for five seasons and won two WNBA titles before leaving to become an assistant with the Denver Nuggets. … Two other Mystics are finishing seasons abroad, forward Mactabene Amachree in Turkey and guard Helen Luz in Spain.

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