- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 28, 2004

As Chamique Holdsclaw’s “minor medical problem” approaches its second month with her return increasingly unlikely, the Washington Mystics say they are preparing a contingency plan.

With eight games remaining and Washington set to resume play Wednesday against the Indiana Fever at MCI Center after a month-long Olympic break, the Mystics are planning to employ a team concept to compensate for the things that Holdsclaw does so well.

But there are lingering questions about who will fill the key roles that normally fall to Holdsclaw. Specifically, who is going to be the go-to player late in games.

“It’s go-to by committee,” coach Michael Adams said. “We’re just going to pick up where we left off the last couple of games. Alana Beard has been a player for us, doing it consistently. Overall, I think if we can get all our players to chip in and contribute a little more than they have in the past, I think we’ll be fine.”

Beard, the Mystics’ second-leading scorer at 11.2 points, guard Stacey Dales-Schuman (8.6) and veteran center Chasity Melvin (7.6) are the most logical candidates to take big shots late in games.

“I think anyone can assume that role — it’s not just any given player,” Beard said. “I definitely can create my own shot, but we have other people on this team that are very good at creating their own shot also.”

Said Dales-Schuman: “The thing I will point out is the way we finished the break without Chamique. We had four players in double figures. If you can do that throughout the course of a game, you might not need to have a go-to player because so many people are contributing and it spreads the defense.”

Nothing has changed concerning Holdsclaw’s mysterious decision to leave the team in late July. Mystics senior management has spoken with Holdsclaw during the break but refuses to say why their star player remains away from the team.

Holdsclaw’s disappearance comes at a crucial time for the Mystics (12-14). Washington is a half-game out of the final playoff spot in the WNBA’s jumbled Eastern Conference and just 11/2 games out of first place.

Holdsclaw is the WNBA’s second-leading scorer (19 points) and the league’s third-leading rebounder (8.3). Even if she does not return, the schedule favors the Mystics. The combined record of their final eight opponents is 67-87, including only one (New York) with a winning record.

In three games without Holdsclaw, the Mystics went 2-1. They finished strongly before the Olympic break, winning back-to-back games for the third time this season before taking August off.

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