- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

Despite appearing fully recovered in recent practices, Washington Mystics star Chamique Holdsclaw did not make the trip to Detroit for tonight's game against the Shock.

Instead, the Mystics (15-7) opted to play it safe with their franchise player by leaving Holdsclaw at home to rest her ankle. It now appears she'll return Saturday at MCI Center against the Seattle Storm.

Not that the first-place Mystics holding onto a 1½-game lead in the Eastern Conference have struggled without her. Washington is 4-1 since Holdsclaw's injury June28. Just last week, coach Marianne Stanley gushed over her team's depth.

"Chamique probably comes as close to a bona fide star as we have, but we have a lot of way above average players," Stanley said. "They may not be 'the' star, but they're way above average. We don't put a weak player on the floor."

But after a narrow victory over last-place Detroit and a 10-point loss to the Utah Starzz last week both of which Washington forward Vicky Bullett called "iffy" performances the Mystics could use some help.

Reinforcements are on the way, but they're coming one at a time, and for tonight, point guard Annie Burgess will have to do. After sitting out Washington's last two games and four of the last five with a strained left calf, Burgess will be back in uniform against the Shock.

"I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent, but I'm getting there," Burgess said. "It was good that I had a few days off to rest it so I didn't re-injure it."

Burgess is no superstar like Holdsclaw, but the Mystics have missed her as well. None of Washington's other guards not even rookie Stacey Dales-Schuman, who frequently played the point in college has been able to replicate Burgess' steady floor leadership.

In fact, the Mystics' starting backcourt was a mess in Saturday's 83-73 loss to the Starzz. Dales-Schuman and Coco Miller shot a combined 3-for-13 from the field, placing the offensive burden squarely on a frontcourt that has been overextended in Holdsclaw's absence.

Detroit won't soon forget last week's loss at MCI Center, when a desperation 3-pointer by Bullett saved the Mystics with 20 seconds to play.

If the Mystics can survive the Shock, it would guarantee them at least a .500 season, setting another franchise milestone in this remarkable year of firsts.

Still, for all the feel-good stories that Washington's turnaround has inspired, there can probably be no happy ending unless Holdsclaw is involved. Saturday cannot come soon enough.

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