- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 26, 2005

DeLisha Milton-Jones was at her home in Barcelona when Washington Mystics general manager Linda Hargrove called to see if she would be interested in joining her franchise. The Mystics were being pressured by Chamique Holdsclaw to trade her, and Hargrove was trying to maximize the return for losing the franchise’s cornerstone.

Milton-Jones, then a member of the Los Angeles Sparks playing overseas, didn’t immediately say yes. The two-time Olympian who won two WNBA titles as a role player with the Sparks, needed time to digest the idea.

“She called and I looked at my husband [Roland] and I said, ‘I think this is it,’ ” Milton-Jones said. “He said, ‘If you feel comfortable with it, go for it.’ ”

The forward liked what she heard about being a featured player instead of a sidekick to Lisa Leslie. After some overnight soul-searching, Milton-Jones told Hargrove the next day she was ready to make the move.

“I was like, ‘I’m game. Let’s make it happen,’ ” she said.

Now Milton-Jones will play an increased role on a team many expect to finish last in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Holdsclaw was shipped west to be a support player on a team favored to win the WNBA title.

The two will meet for the first time tonight at MCI Center when Milton-Jones starts her first game with the Mystics at small forward against Holdsclaw and the Sparks. Washington’s newcomer will be asked to play an even bigger part because guard Alana Beard is expected to miss her third game with a sprained right ankle.

“Some people would look at me and say, ‘Why would you want to leave when you’re winning?’” said Milton-Jones, who arrived in Washington eight days ago after her team in Spain won its league title. “It is not about that. It is about being able to go home and be happy. When you come home and you are still angry because of work, you need to make a change.”

No doubt Holdsclaw feels the same.

Holdsclaw, who won four state high school titles in New York and three nationals championships at the University of Tennessee, apparently asked out in part because she got fed up with losing in Washington. The Mystics posted only one winning season in her first five before she left in midseason last year for an undisclosed medical situation that she later described as depression.

“[At first], I wasn’t going to play basketball [in the WNBA this season],” Holdsclaw said recently. “I have other things in my life I would like to do, but I came here to win a championship. … I felt I owed it to myself.”

The trade has effectively become a one-for-one deal. The Mystics did get the Sparks’ first-round pick (13th overall) in the draft, which they dealt to Detroit for center Iciss Tillis, who was waived before the season began.

Note — New Mystics part-owner Sheila Johnson will address the crowd before the game.

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