Just another typical Mystics practice this afternoon. You know, some half-court drills, some shooting drills, some defensive drills, a post-game huddle, and a post-game announcement from rookie center Gillian Goring that she was going to get married. Like, today.
"She was like I, 'just want to tell you all right now that tomorrow my last name will be Conley'," Nikki Blue told me. "She said, 'I'm going to the courthouse right now so I can get married.' Our mouths dropped, like 'Oh my God'."
Seriously. Goring has been with her fiance (or, by now I guess, her husband) Stephan Conley for three years, and they've been engaged for nearly two years. The formal ceremony is planned for September, in Arkansas, but Conley is in D.C. this week, and his family is in D.C. this week, and Goring's family is in D.C. this week, and so they figured why not.
"Just a little spur of the moment," Goring told me after practice. "We're just keeping it on the down low for a little bit, then later in September everyone will be invited."
Goring will wear, or possibly wore, a black skirt and a white shirt. She planned on taking family members and a few teammates to the courthouse, maybe posing for a few simple photos. I tried to ask some follow-ups, but time was ticking.
"She wants to go get married," teammate Tamara James said, interrupting our interview. "Go have fun, girl!" she advised, and Goring was off. Fair enough. No one tried interviewing me two hours before my wedding, and with two hours to go I wasn't wearing basketball shorts and standing in the Verizon Center, so I let Goring go get married and instead asked her teammates what sort of wedding presents they had gotten for her.
"If I didn't know she was getting married why would I just have a present waiting?" James said. "I might as well have 12 more presents waiting," which was true enough.
"The rookies don't have much, so I'll give her a little cash, in a nice little envelope," Alana Beard promised.
In the meantime, there were a few other developing storylines.
Yelena Leuchanka is from Belarus. That's about the only thing I can write without straying way, way, way over the line of political correctness. See, the thing is, the other Mystics think she's.... Well, they think she's....
"Say she has soul," suggested assistant coach Crystal Robinson, helping me steer clear of any controversy.
"She dances like a black girl," suggested James, steering me back in the other direction. Just then Blue walked by.
"How's [Leuchanka] dance?" James asked Blue. "Like a black girl," Blue said, without pausing.
Leuchanka came to the U.S. when she was 17, not speaking a lick of English. She learned the language through the music of Destiny's Child, TLC, Jay-Z and others, and since then people have suggested, well....
"The name I gave her is 'Ghetto Girl'," Beard said. Nakia Sanford calls her "Y-Lisha." And, as long as we're going there, James has frequently suggested that Beard and Leuchanka are mixed up in some very non-PC way.
"They need to change colors," James said. "Y needs to be AB's complexion, and AB needs to be Y's complexion. You could have a conversation with Y, her whole demeanor is just so lax and so 'hood, man. Y is 'hood. Y's a gangster. Y goes to the club with us and she's like the only white girl. She'll just dance in the middle, she don't care."
For her part, Y played this all off as a joke, although she's cleary heard it before.
"It's like a surprise, because I'm European and white," Leuchanka told me. "I mean, I like to go dance but I don't think I'm good or anything."
But no one else agreed with her. Even Beard admitted that she was outclassed.
"It's true, I can't dance," she told me. "I don't have rhythm. They call me the white girl on the team and I'm black. It's not fair."
Ok, has anyone been fired yet? No? Good.
In a little less than two weeks the WNBA All-Star Game and all the attendant festivities will invade D.C. Like most of you, I've already gotten at least one party invite in my private inbox: to the "Luv and Basketball All-Star Soiree" at Posh, featuring Lindsey Harding, and sponsored by Nike, Absolut and Monster Energy. Web site here. More invites are surely coming. So I asked the Mystics who among them was hosting a party.
Beard and Sanford are thinking about collaborating on an event; people keep asking Beard if she's going to host, but she's reluctant, and was talking all this team-first junk about wanting to have a group Mystics event instead of a party affiliated with her name as headliner.
"I don't know, should I" Beard asked me, since I'm clearly an expert in such matters. "It's the perfect occasion, but I'm not the biggest partier, you know what I mean? I just think it's a lot of stress and a lot that goes into it. And I know that people want to have fun, but I don't know. We'll see. I'm still thinking about it."
James said she won't be hosting; "I'm just going to be at all the parties, how 'bout that?" she said. And Nikki Teasley said she hadn't decided if she should host yet.
"But if I do," she said, "I got the city on lock."
The [Slang for Passing Gas] Machine
It's sort of been closeted for now, because it ran out of batteries, but for a few days there Beard and James were terrorizing the locker room with a [slang for passing gas] machine, which was provided to Beard by an assistant coach. They even used it on an unwitting flight attendant during their flight to Phoenix, the trip that kicked off a stretch of four wins in five games. Beard holds the trigger, and James holds the noisemaker. Why?
"I've got the most gas on the team," James explained. "I do pass gas for real; that's why it's believable."
Man, this is a great team. Anyhow,
"AB and TJ, they're human [slang for passing gas] machines," Blue told me. "We don't really need a machine, to tell you the truth."
Beard promised to bring the machine back at some point. I had to ask whether the machine had anything to do with this recent hot streak, since there seemed to be some correlation, but she said no, it did not.
"We understood that we were never out of it, and we kept believing," Beard said. "On paper, we're a great team. It's just about putting it together. And we have, we are putting it together. I think it's going to be a beautiful thing."
Which sounds nice and all, but I still believe in the old adage that a team that uses juvenile noisemakers together wins together, or whatever.