- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

Star forward Chamique Holdsclaw might have played her last game for the Washington Mystics.

In a statement released by the club yesterday, the WNBA’s second-leading scorer (19.0) and third-leading rebounder (8.3) said she will not rejoin the team for the final five games this season.

“I understand that many have called on me to further explain why I am not able to play, however, for reasons that are deeply personal, I find myself unable to provide a more detailed explanation at this time,” Holdsclaw said in her statement. “I just do not yet feel comfortable addressing this publicly.”

WNBA sources say the reason for Holdsclaw’s absence is that so strong a conflict exists between her and first-year coach Michael Adams, one or the other is almost certain to depart before next season.

Adams, a popular former player for the Washington Bullets, had never been a head coach before this season. He refuses to say why one of the league’s best players left the team without explanation.

“The bottom line is that she has management’s permission to be away from here, and we’re going to play with what we have,” Adams said.

Holdsclaw, who has a street named after her in Knoxville, Tenn., after leading the Lady Vols to three consecutive NCAA championships, practiced last Thursday with the Mystics but has not returned.

After that practice, while Adams and the team huddled at midcourt, Holdsclaw stood on the periphery of the circle and didn’t touch the core with her hand.

“I recognize that the limited information that I have shared has resulted in a great deal of speculation about me,” Holds-claw said in the statement. “So I do want to assure you that my circumstances are not life-threatening, or even career-threatening, but right now my focus is on getting to the point where I feel able to play again.”

The Mystics (13-16) have been calling Holdsclaw’s absence “a minor medical problem.” But with the situation well into its second month, the organization apparently has misinterpreted the problem. After Holdsclaw’s only practice in more than a month, Adams said, “She was the leading rebounder in practice, which is amazing, and you realize how much of a talent she is.”

With five games left, the Mystics are still mathematically alive for the playoffs, but nothing in their recent play suggests they will make it. Since a month-long Olympic break ended last week, Washington has won just one of three games.

The Mystics have the second-worst record in the league and end the season on a three-game road trip; they are 4-10 away from home. Just to reach .500 for the second time in franchise history, the Mystics must win four of their final five games, an unlikely prospect.

Of finishing the season without Holdsclaw, Adams said, “There’s no more topic of discussion about it. She’s not here and we’re not talking about it.”

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