Sunday, July 15, 2007

Alana Beard didn’t have to pack or travel. The Washington Mystics guard didn’t have to worry about travel arrangements for her family, either.

But this year’s WNBA All-Star Game, which takes place at Verizon Center this afternoon, has taken more of a toll on Beard than in her previous two stints in New York and Uncasville, Conn.

Beard has participated in promotional events for the game, starting with a clinic and a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Thursday. On Friday, she attended the unveiling of a new Reading & Learning center at the Robert V. Murray Boys & Girls Club, as well as an awards ceremony.

“I slept 12 hours Friday night,” Beard said after finishing practice with the Eastern Conference All-Stars yesterday. “I couldn’t go out to party, but I’m not complaining. I’m doing it for the league and my team. Whatever is necessary to promote the league, I’ll do.”

WNBA coaches selected Beard and Mystics forward DeLisha Milton-Jones as two of the six reserves on the Eastern Conference roster. Coaches weren’t allowed to cast votes for players on their own team.

Beard’s three appearances are one behind the Mystics’ franchise-record of four All-Star selections set by recently retired Chamique Holdsclaw. Despite fighting through a shoulder injury all season, Beard has led the Mystics with 18.6 points a game and a team-high 39 steals.

“I’ve been busting my butt,” Beard said. “I’m an opportunistic person. You can never stop working unless your mind stops you.”

Milton-Jones’ All-Star appearance is her first since the 2000 season when she played for the Los Angeles Sparks. She arrived in Washington after the 2004 season in a trade for Holdsclaw and emerged as one of the Mystics’ most consistent scorers.

Milton-Jones, who averaged a career-high 14.6 points a game last season, is near that mark again this year with 13.9. While she shoots only 36.3 percent from the field, she also has contributed inside with 1.26 blocks — first on the team — and 5.68 rebounds a game.

“Everyone who plays this game knows that you have nights where you are hitting everything,” Milton-Jones said. “You can throw it up backwards and it will go in. Then you have nights where you are wide open and you can’t connect with the basket. But when you are missing shots, there are other things you can do on the basketball court to help your team.”

Mystics coach Tree Rollins is just happy that the other WNBA coaches have recognized the accomplishments of Beard and Milton-Jones despite Washington’s 7-12 record.

“When the fans choose you it’s one thing,” Rollins said. “But when the coaches choose you, it means a lot more. The way those two have been playing their whole career, for them to be chosen to play on their home court, I’m sure they’ll put on a good show. As a coach, I hope they don’t get too many minutes so they can be ready for our games.”

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