- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gritting her teeth through obvious frustration, a nagging injury and endless questions, Mystics all-star guard Alana Beard spent most of practice Wednesday on the sideline, riding the bike and wishing she was on the court with her teammates.

Washington is off to an 0-1 start without her, losing 89-73 to the Connecticut Sun on Saturday. The Mystics play their second game Thursday night in Atlanta.

Beard is listed as day to day with an injury to her left foot and ankle, the same ankle that kept her sidelined last year.

“It gets better every day. Anything like this obviously is frustrating, but at the same time you have to understand that it is a process,” Beard said. “I’ve been going through it for a year, so if I don’t understand it by now, I didn’t learn my lesson, so I’m pretty cool with it. Obviously I’m upset, but I understand.”

The hope was that Beard’s return to the starting lineup would help the Mystics move past last year’s first-round playoff exit and onto greater success as a championship-contending team.

But with Monique Currie sidelined this season and Beard’s availability in question, coach Trudi Lacey already has had to put her life’s philosophy in play — to live by faith and not fear — and the season is just beginning.

“We learned a lot from [the opening road loss]. We learned that we have to play defense every possession. We didn’t do that, we played in spurts,” Lacey said. “We learned that we have to slow down a little on offense and read defense and work on our timing and playing with each other. That’s the important thing is that we learn from it and move forward.”

In addition to Beard, rookie center Ta’Shia Phillips also is questionable with an ankle and foot injury. But Lacey stayed in character and focused on the positive.

“It’s tough when anybody sits out, but the good news is that our young kids are getting some minutes and getting some experience,” Lacey said. “Down the road when we really need them, they’ll have that experience. We’re still a young group and we’re learning and growing together, so it’s going to take time. Having [Beard] with us would help that process, but we’re going to focus on who we have and get the job done.”

The Mystics’ game Thursday, televised on ESPN2, will be against the team that ended their playoff hopes last year. Atlanta also dropped its season opener, to the New York Liberty on Sunday.

The Mystics will face their starting point guard from last season — Lindsay Harding, who was traded to the Dream last month for Phillips and point guard Kelly Miller — in the first of four meetings between the teams.

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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