Harding is a restricted free agent, which means Washington can match any offer she receives to keep her. Harding hasn’t received any offers from other teams, but she has expressed a desire to play in Atlanta, close to her family.
“Lindsey made a request to be in a different market and so we honored that request in terms of looking into markets she would be interested in,” Mystics General Manager and Coach Trudi Lacey said. “I will say wholeheartedly our first option as an organization is that we want Lindsey here.”
Harding’s agent, Orlando Castano Jr., has tried putting together trades that would send Harding to Atlanta but so far none have been worked out. One scenario involved a three-team deal among Washington, Atlanta and San Antonio, in which the Mystics would get San Antonio’s sixth pick and Michelle Snow. Another deal involved Chicago and Minnesota, in which Washington would get Nicky Anosike and a 2012 first-round pick. Los Angeles is a third option, possibly involving Maryland alum Kristi Toliver and Loree Moore.
“We have been in discussions with all parties,” Castano Jr. said. “There’s been no movement.”
Atlanta General Manager and Coach Marynell Meadors declined to comment on her interest in acquiring Harding.
“In any situation, you want to get value for value,” Lacey said. “At the end of the day, we have to do what’s best for our organization and get the best possible deal for our organization so that we can put the best product forward. . . . It has to work for both parties. Everybody has to be in agreement that it works for everybody.”
Harding is in her fourth season in the WNBA. She spent her first two years in Minnesota before being traded to Washington in January 2009. She has started every game for the Mystics the past two seasons. Harding averaged 12.1 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 33.2 minutes per game last season and was on the all-star team for the first time in her career.
Lacey already has begun to plan as if Harding were not a part of the team this season. She signed Maurita Reid, a free agent point guard who has no WNBA experience but has played internationally. Lacey also plans to adjust the Mystics style of play to make them less dependent on a traditional point guard. Instead of one ball-handler, several players will be tasked with bringing the ball up the court and initiating the offense.
“The smart thing to do is prepare for any scenario and . . . to really utilize what we have,” Lacey said.
Another player the Mystics are waiting to hear from is starting guard Katie Smith, one of the all-time leading scorers in WNBA history. The team designated Smith as a core player, meaning it holds her exclusive negotiating rights. But Washington has yet to sign her to a contract.
“Katie is deciding whether she wants to come back or retire,” Lacey said. “She’s kind of seeing how her body is doing.”
The WNBA draft is Monday and the Mystics hold the 11th pick. Lacey said it was unlikely the situation with Harding will be resolved before the draft.
“I don’t want to close the door on anything,” she said. “I really can’t say if anything will happen before the draft. . . . At this point, as I’m speaking to you right now, probably not.”