- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Washington Mystics traded disgruntled DeLisha Milton-Jones to the Los Angeles Sparks yesterday for Taj McWilliams-Franklin and a first-round draft pick.

Milton-Jones had asked for a trade and said she planned to sit out the season if a deal was not made.

The Mystics made the sign-and-trade deal after general manager Linda Hargrove confirmed the 37-year-old McWilliams-Franklin was healthy after she had arthroscopic knee surgery following last season. The six-time All-Star is now playing for the U.S. national team in a pre-Olympic tournament in Beijing.

“This thing has just been a big cloud that has been hanging over us since the end of last season,” Hargrove said. “We feel that Taj is a player who can come in and help us win this year.”

McWilliams-Franklin replaces Milton-Jones at power forward, allowing first-round pick and former Maryland player Crystal Langhorne more time to adjust to the WNBA. McWilliams-Franklin and Langhorne are teammates on the national team.

“[McWilliams-Franklin] played on TV over the weekend and was running the court really well,” Hargrove said. “We got great reports out of Beijing from USA Basketball. And then when we were able to get the first-round pick, that was a big part of what we wanted because we all know Taj’s years are limited. She might play one or two years.”

Both players are expected in camp next week.

McWilliams-Franklin, who played professionally in Israel in the offseason, averaged team highs of 11.1 points and 5.9 rebounds last season with the Sparks.

“She’s a mentor, a true professional,” Hargrove said. “She has a very professional attitude about her. She comes to work every day to do her job. It is all business. … We need that. Her leadership and demeanor will be very healthy for our team.”

Milton-Jones, 33, returns to her original team. The Mystics acquired her in a trade for Chamique Holdsclaw in 2005.

“The Mystics acquired an All-Star who is healthy, and Washington just wasn’t going to accept [Milton-Jones sitting out],” said Mike Cound, the agent for both players in the trade. “It’s a pretty good solution, particularly since you have a disgruntled player. It sort of worked out for everybody.”

Notes — Point guard Nikki Blue is expected to arrive in camp today, and she will be the first player from last season’s roster to arrive. …

Alana Beard has delayed her arrival to about May 5 because of the playoffs in Poland. …

The Mystics added former Coppin State shooting guard Rashida Suber to their training-camp roster.

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