Washington Mystics 2010 Season Preview
Sans Beard, can they make a run at the playoffs?
We continue previewing the 2010 WNBA Season with the Washington Mystics. You can read past previews here.
by Ben York / @bjyork
“It has been my philosophy of life that difficulties vanish when faced boldly.” — Isaac Asimov
After the 2009 season concluded, Alana Beard was on a mission.
I remember talking to her just a few months ago in January and was taken aback by the sheer amount of dedication she had to improving her game. She was in the gym in the (very) early hours of the morning and wouldn’t leave until after lunch. Beard had specific areas of her game she knew she needed to work on, and with her unrivaled work ethic, you just knew that her perceived “weaknesses” were soon to be added to her never-ending list of strengths.
That all changed in mid-April when the Mystics announced Beard would miss the entire 2010 season with an ankle injury.
I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention that when I heard the news, I groaned and shook my head in disbelief. You hate to hear of any type of injury to any player, but this one really was both devastating and unfortunate.
I picked the Mystics to be a legitimate contender along with the Indiana Fever for the Eastern Conference Championship. I believe they had that good of a team and made all the necessary additions to fortify both their backcourt and frontcourt.
With Beard out, the question now becomes, will the adversity be enough to motivate the Mystics into a Playoff spot? Sometimes, all it takes for a team to rise above the doubters and naysayers is a profound belief in the collective unit. Make no mistake about it; losing Beard is the equivalent of the Lakers losing Kobe Bryant, the Cavaliers losing LeBron, or the Phoenix Mercury losing Taurasi — she’s irreplaceable. What you can do, however, is use the untimely news as a rallying point for the entire team.
The addition of Katie Smith in the off-season immediately became that much more invaluable upon learning the news of Beard’s injury. As mentioned above, Beard cannot be replaced but having a proven veteran in Katie Smith certainly can’t hurt. Smith was originally brought in to be Beard’s counterpart and to boost the team’s overall savvy and depth. Now, she’ll be relied upon heavily on both ends of the floor.
The good news is that Smith appears to be fully healthy for the first time in a long while. She said several times during her official Mystics press conference that she feels no pain in her back; something that has been a major hindrance to her production in years past. Smith had almost a full year of recovery to strengthen her core and improve her mobility and came into training camp in her best shape in years.
Still, let’s not forget the Mystics are an incredibly talented team along with Beard and Smith. GM Angela Taylor and coach Julie Plank have put together a solid mix of veterans and youth that, if they play to their potential, could propel them into what many are saying is an unlikely Playoff birth.
That means Marissa Coleman, Matee Ajavon, Lindsey Harding, and Crystal Langhorne will need to increase their productivity from years past. Langhorne, the 2009 Most Improved Player, has upped her averages nearly every year in the league and she’ll undoubtedly have an opportunity to improve both her scoring and rebounding output in 2010. Marissa Coleman, who trained religiously with Beard in the off-season, has received rave reviews in training camp thus far and is poised for a breakout year. The Mystics also have high hopes in rookie Jacinta Monroe to help Langhorne in the post. Monroe is versatile enough to stay mobile in the paint both offensively and defensively, but her role will most likely be solidifying the Mystics interior defense.
For the optimists out there, perhaps what benefits the Mystics most is that the Eastern Conference is as unpredictable as it has ever been. The team with the least amount of question marks is the Indiana Fever and they are missing several starters who are still playing in Turkey. As far as the other teams in the East are concerned, the Liberty will be integrating several new pieces into their squad, the Dream could still be inconsistent, and the Sun has a lot of talent but also a lot of inexperience.
Of the six teams in the Eastern Conference, only four will make the Playoffs. For the Mystics, they could look at the loss of Alana Beard in one of two ways:
1. Give up, and don’t expect much of the season at all.
2. Use the adversity to rally the team into a Playoff birth.
As long as Angela Taylor and Julie Plank are at the helm, something tells me they haven’t even considered the former.