Monday, July 16, 2007

Alana Beard felt more relaxed for the WNBA All-Star Game than she would have been for a regular-season game. A fan noticed the difference and approached the Washington Mystics guard.

“I’ve never seen you smile that much on the court,” the fan told her.

Still, Beard took a meticulous approach toward her game preparation. She didn’t allow anyone but her trainer, Navin Hettiarachchi, to treat her injured shoulder.

“When you get used to something, you got to stick to it,” Beard said. “I didn’t realize I was that superstitious.”

And Beard carried the same competitive fire even if she appeared more relaxed. She came off the bench and had eight points and eight assists in the Eastern Conference’s 103-99 victory over the Western Conference at Verizon Center yesterday. Beard played almost 17 minutes.

“I’m going to make the most of the minutes every time I’m on the court, whether it’s one minute, two minutes or 20 minutes,” Beard said. “I wasn’t thinking. I just wanted to have fun and get a win.”

Mystics forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, also a reserve, was one of six players to score in double figures. She scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds.

Milton-Jones, who averages 13.9 points a game while shooting 36.3 percent from the field, didn’t expect to be selected as an All-Star this season.

“I thought it was a complete surprise to me this year because for myself I felt like my play was rather inconsistent,” Milton-Jones said. “Even though my numbers were up, it was inconsistent. But the coaches saw differently, and I think it was a great thing for them to vote me in.”

Fighting butterflies

Laurie Koehn was so nervous she couldn’t feel any blood circulate through her arms. The uneasiness continued for the Mystics backup guard when Phoenix Mercury forwards Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor warned her what might happen in yesterday’s 3-point shooting contest.

“We’re coming after you,” they said.

Still, Koehn won the 3-point shootout with 25 points in the final round, at one point making 14 shots in a row and 18 of her last 19. In the first round, Koehn had 23 points, including 10 straight makes.

“It’s one of those things where I was just trying to keep my mind on the rim,” Koehn said. “I’ve had the tendency in these contests before to move fast, and I wind up having 15 seconds left. Whenever I missed, I told myself to slow down and make the next one.”

Taylor and Taurasi finished second and third with 19 and 16 points, respectively, in the final round. Koehn thought part of her nervousness was rooted in trying to perform well in front of the home crowd.

Koehn is a career 47 percent shooter from 3-point range and averages 4.4 minutes a game this season.

“I’ve really tried to work on my handle,” Koehn said. “I worked on that a lot in the offseason this year so I can become more versatile and not just be a catch-and-shoot player. I’m able to penetrate a little bit more, but I have a long ways to go.”

League gets new TV deal

ESPN and the WNBA reached an eight-year agreement in which the league will receive rights fees for the first time.

ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 will televise 18 regular-season games and 11 playoff games through the 2016 season. ABC will carry the WNBA All-Star Game, while ESPN or ESPN2 will broadcast the first round of the WNBA Draft.

“We wouldn’t be in this for eight more years if we weren’t confident in the growth potential of this sport and quality of competition,” ESPN executive vice president John Skipper said.

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