- The Washington Times - Friday, September 3, 2004

Washington’s best soap opera not involving politicians presented its latest episode yesterday when Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw practiced with the team after an unexplained six-week absence.

In keeping with Holdsclaw’s mysterious situation, team officials refused to let the franchise star speak with reporters to explain her unexpected return.

Holdsclaw left the Mystics in late July citing a “minor medical problem.” Yesterday was her first appearance at MCI Center since she made three of 13 shots against the Detroit Shock in a 73-65 loss July28.

“She was the leading rebounder in practice, which is amazing, and you realize how much of a talent she is,” coach Michael Adams said. “And when she comes in, you can see that she’s one of the best players in this league.

“I’m taking it day-by-day with her. I’m letting her decide what she wants to do and show her some things. It’s good to see her. It’s her timetable — it’s not ours. Whenever she feels that she’s ready to come out and compete for us, we’ll wait with open arms.”

That won’t be for almost a week at the earliest. The Mystics (12-15) placed Holdsclaw, who is the WNBA’s second-leading scorer (19 points) and third-leading rebounder (8.3 rebounds), on the injured list Tuesday and cannot activate her until Thursday’s home game against New York.

Holdsclaw’s teammates first learned she was rejoining the team Wednesday just before the Mystics’ 75-58 collapse against Indiana in Washington’s first game after a month-long Olympic break.

The Mystics were pummeled 37-25 on the glass by the pedestrian Fever (13-15), and Holdsclaw’s return can’t come soon enough for a team struggling to make the playoffs. The Mystics are 2-2 in games Holdsclaw has not played this season.

Judging by what her teammates are saying, no rust accumulated on the three-time WNBA All-Star while she was out.

“She looked very well, she hasn’t lost a step at all, Chamique is Chamique,” rookie guard Alana Beard said. “She’s fine. Everything was in step. She didn’t look like she was winded at all.”

The reason for Holdsclaw’s absence remains unclear. In an interview last month at her basketball camp at West Potomac High School in Fairfax County, Holdsclaw ruled out pregnancy, cancer and substance abuse as reasons she left the Mystics in the heat of a playoff race.

However, by not sitting on the Mystics bench in street clothes during games and supporting her teammates while recuperating from her “personal medical issues,” Holdsclaw encouraged other speculation.

“If she wasn’t ready to [sit on the bench], it doesn’t matter to me,” Adams said. “Like I said, we’re just waiting for her to decide what she wants to do. We’re just being patient.”

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