- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Washington Mystics traded disgruntled star Chamique Holdsclaw to the Los Angeles Sparks for Delisha Milton-Jones and the 13th overall pick in the 2005 WNBA Draft.

Holdsclaw spent six seasons in Washington as the franchise’s cornerstone after being selected with the first pick overall in 1999. The former Tennessee All-American was a three-time WNBA All-Star and averaged 18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals for the Mystics.

However, last season she played in only 23 of 34 regular-season games and missed the playoffs because of an undisclosed “personal medical issue,” which she later disclosed was depression. The 6-foot-2 forward, who averaged team highs in points (19.0) and rebounds (8.3) last season, soon expressed a desire to leave Washington.

“She felt a change would be positive for her and allow her to move on,” said Mystics consultant Pat Summit, who won three national championships with Holdsclaw at Tennessee. “She has been open about what she went through last year. If she feels it’s time for a change, we feel it’s time for a change for us. We have to look at who wants to be with us.”

Milton-Jones averaged 9.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 19 games last season before tearing an ACL in her left knee. She was the fourth pick overall by Los Angeles in 1999 out of the Florida and was part of two WNBA championship teams in Los Angeles. She averaged a career-high 13.4 points in 2003.

“We have been exploring many options the last couple of weeks and seeing what might work for us as well as meet ‘Mique’s needs as well,” said Mystics general manager Linda Hargrove, who spoke to all the GMs in the WNBA about a deal. “This is the one that made the most sense for us. [Milton-Jones] was the right person for us, and getting the 13th pick in the draft was a bonus.”

Mystics coach Michael Adams welcomed the addition of Milton-Jones.

“Delisha brings championship experience to our roster and will provide leadership as we look to improve on last season’s finish,” Adams said. “While we are excited about adding Delisha to the roster, we will certainly miss Chamique.”

Holdsclaw, 27, played in Spain over the winter. The departing star thanked fans in a statement announcing the deal.

“I want to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to the Washington Mystics fans for their unwavering support, kindness and loyalty during my six years with the team — especially during the tough times of this past season. I know that I greatly benefited from my experiences in Washington, which will help me both personally and professionally as I move on,” Holdsclaw said.

Holdsclaw is the second significant loss this offseason for the Mystics. Point guard Stacey Dales-Schuman retired abruptly to become a full-time broadcaster for ESPN. The top returning player is second-year player Alana Beard.

Summit said it was difficult to trade a friend and player of Holdsclaw’s caliber.

“We lost a great player,” Summit said. “We are also getting a player who can be an impact player for us.”

Holdsclaw opted out of the U.S. national team for the Athens Olympics and missed the WNBA All-Star Game.

“Obviously, Chamique went through a very trying time personally last season, and we have attempted to support her in every way possible,” said Washington Sports and Entertainment President Susan O’Malley. “When she asked us to consider trading her for a fresh start, we felt it was best for everyone to honor that request.”

Washington opens the season May 21 at Charlotte.

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