- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

It was like old times for Chamique Holdsclaw last night at MCI Center. The face of the Washington Mystics for the last six seasons received a hearty welcome during pregame introductions and responded with a wide smile.

Little was different — except Holdsclaw played for the visiting Los Angeles Sparks after forcing an offseason trade.

‘I’m glad I got this one out of the way,’ the three-time All-Star said after the Sparks’ 77-67 preseason victory before a reported crowd of 7,611. ‘It was weird coming back here to the MCI Center. I wasn’t really nervous. I was excited to come back.’

But not as a member of the home team. Holdsclaw, who forced the trade because she ‘needed a change of scenery,’ left the Mystics midway through last season for an undisclosed medical reason, which she later divulged was depression. The first overall pick in the 1999 draft from Tennessee refused to discuss her disappearance and became terse last night when questioned about her final season in the District.

‘If this is about this year and this team right now, that is it,’ said Holdsclaw, who was booed during foul shots and jeered after getting away with a possible walk. ‘This is my focus. It is not about last year. It is not about last year with the Mystics. This is a new year, progression. If you have a question about the team now and us playing the Mystics today, I will answer your question.’

The 27-year-old denied comments attributed to her in the Los Angeles Times that suggested she wanted to leave the Mystics to play for a winning team. Her Washington teams had little success — two playoff appearances and one trip to the Eastern Conference finals.

‘I want to be somewhere where I’m playing with great players and we can go out there and make things happen,’ Holdsclaw was quoted as saying. ‘For once, since I’ve been in the pros, to have some excitement.’

She said she is happy to be on a team that includes reigning WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie.

‘It makes my job a lot easier,’ Holdsclaw said. ‘I don’t have to go out there and do everything — just play and try to win a championship.’

When asked about what knowledge she gained from her six seasons here, she gave a cryptic response.

‘You learn to take the good with the good and the bad with the bad,’ she said. ‘You learn a lot.’

Overall, Holdsclaw had a happy homecoming. She started slowly but finished with 15 points on 6-for-15 shooting and eight rebounds. Doneeka Hodges had 16 points, and Leslie provided 13 for the Sparks, who erased a 10-point deficit midway through the first half and never trailed after that.

Charlotte Smith-Taylor and Tamicha Jackson each had a team-high 12 points for the Mystics, who have lost both their exhibition games.

Washington played without two likely starters because guard Alana Beard aggravated her sore hamstring in the morning shoot-around and forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, whom the Mystics acquired for Holdsclaw, is finishing her season in Spain.

Los Angeles took control after halftime with a 14-4 run. Holdsclaw’s twisting layup started the run. She converted a three-point play to make it 46-39 and pushed the advantage to 53-41 on a nifty baseline turnaround.

The Mystics battled back with a 13-3 stretch, cutting the deficit to 56-54 on Jackson’s 3-pointer with 10:03 remaining. Washington missed several chances to tie before Los Angeles reopened the lead. Tamika Whitmore’s fast-break layup off Temeka Johnson’s turnover pushed the lead to four. Dee Dee Wheeler’s transition layup gave the visitors a more comfortable margin at 68-61.

Note — Mactabene Amachree finished her season in Turkey and is in Washington. The 6-foot-1 Nigerian forward is expected to practice with the Mystics for the first time today.

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