- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 28, 2007

Although only 28 years old, several of Nikki Teasley’s Washington Mystics teammates joke about her being an “old lady.”

A five-year veteran of the WNBA, Teasley arrives at Verizon Center two hours before each practice and home game to undergo a routine consisting of varying exercises and procedures to keep both her injured feet and knees healthy for tip-off.

For the Mystics starting point guard, whose team plays host to the Detroit Shock today, it is a routine that has been vital in helping her to stay effective on the court.

“I’m going. It’s not the easiest thing,” Teasley said. “But even if I’m not doing that great offensively or defensively, I feel like my presence means a lot on the court.”

While Teasley’s numbers are the lowest of her five-year career — she is averaging 6.0 points and 3.3 assists a game this season — that presence has helped Washington win five of six games. Teasley often tries to find mismatches to exploit when she brings the ball up the court, looking for guard Alana Beard coming off a screen or trying to find Monique Currie slashing to the hoop.

“One thing I really like about Nikki T is when she sees something like a hole in the defense where you can take advantage of another player, she’ll pull you to the side and tell you what she thinks you can do,” Currie said. “Most of the time, she’s right. She can get you the ball where you’re in a position to score. She sees things that a lot of people may not see.”

But Teasley’s injured knees and feet still limit her effectiveness. She has played as few as seven minutes in a game this season and as many as 31.

“This year was the first time I heard her say something to me about [her injuries],” Mystics guard Nikki Blue said. “At the beginning of the season, she said, ‘I don’t know how effective I’m going to be. I need you Nikki. I need you to go out there and pick up a point guard with full-court pressure.’ ”

Teasley often refuses to sit out, though. After bumping her knee into center Yelena Leuchanka in practice last week, Teasley pledged to play through her pain. But Mystics coach Tree Rollins eventually forced Teasley to sit out the last 15 minutes of practice.

Teasley especially doesn’t like to sit on the bench during games. When she does, she finds it hard for her body to feel rejuvenated.

Though it could hurt her knees and feet even more, she would much rather just play and rely on adrenaline to carry her.

That determination helped Teasley record a career-high 10 assists in the Mystics’ 97-96 overtime win over the Seattle Storm on Tuesday. In that game, Washington shot 49.3 percent from the field, including 40.1 percent from 3-point range.

The Mystics average just above 40.5 percent from the field and only 31.3 percent from 3-point range.

Rollins does not attribute those numbers to Teasley’s health issues.

“With the way we’ve been playing, we hope to get off to a better start,” he said. “But it’s not because she’s not directing the team. We’re just not making shots.”