Not a week goes by that Washington Mystics forward Tamara James doesn't write on the marker board.
A fan of urban apparel ranging from Baby Phat to Screen Tees, James immediately writes what she calls a fashion ticket when the dress of her teammates or Mystics coach Tree Rollins does not meet her expectations.
For example, James recently spotted guard Nikki Teasley wearing bright yellow and black shoes, which didn't color coordinate with her Wizards basketball shorts. James noticed forward Monique Currie with basketball socks when she wore a dress with high-heels. Both received tickets.
James often reminds guard Alana Beard to wash her hair, and she once advised Rollins not to wear pants that completely cover his shoes.
We have a very funny team, James said. I'm the outspoken [one] of the bunch, and I point things out that others would probably let slide.
Rollins sees James' demeanor brighten the mood of the 9-13 Mystics, who play host to the Seattle Storm tonight at Verizon Center. He can't recall a single week when he doesn't receive at least four fashion statements. James also entertains her teammates with pregame dances in the locker room.
Everybody knows, well maybe not the public, how essential she is to this team, Mystics guard Nikki Blue said.
A look at a box score can give the impression that James simply is an inexperienced player with a limited role. In her second season in the league, James averages 6.1 points while playing a little more than 15 minutes a game. But Rollins and teammates said James helped them maintain a positive attitude after Washington's 0-8 start.
James' outlook is interesting considering she lost her starting position after Currie arrived in a trade that sent center Chasity Melvin to the Chicago Sky in May. Rollins preferred Currie's tendency to attack the basket, and she has averaged 11.3 points since the trade.
I feel [James] is a better post-up player and spot-up shooter, Rollins said. She's crafty in the post, but now you have different plays you have to run. It's the same positions but for different players.
Instead of expressing frustration, James accepted her role. She even helped Currie adjust by teaching her new teammate the offensive and defensive sets.
I don't wish badly on anybody, James said. I don't hope somebody gets in foul trouble, gets hurt or anything like that. I want to win. If Monique is playing well, I'm her No. 1 fan on the bench.
I'm yelling and screaming for my team. It's not about who gets more minutes. It's not a competition. It's about going out there to play hard and well.
Currie was unsure of the reception she would receive when she arrived in the District. She knew a new team means a new coaching philosophy and teammates to understand. Currie also didn't know how James would respond to her since both would be competing for the same starting spot.
That's why I like T.J. a lot, Currie said. She easily could've decided not to help me as much as she did because we are competing for minutes. I think both of us want to win, and we want to do whatever we do to help each other. Her doing that showed she's not a selfish person. She's really for this team.
Blue knows what it's like to receive James' support as well. As a rookie last year, Blue averaged only 7.5 minutes a game. When she felt frustrated with her role, James often told her to remain patient.
I don't know if I'd be on this team without her, Blue said. She was always that person to motivate me, and I know she does that to a lot of other players. The veterans look to her for advice. That's big given she's a second-year player.
For now, most of her advice will be fashion-related. But James feels confident performances like her recent seven-point efforts against the Houston Comets and Minnesota Lynx in only 10 and 13 minutes, respectively, will yield to a bigger role.
I'm just me, James said. I try to make light of a lot of situations.