Teams that finish a season tied for the best record in their conference typically don’t decide to undergo a considerable overhaul before the start of their next campaign. But when the Washington Mystics convened Sunday for the start of training camp, a squad that went 22-12 in 2010 featured a new coach and a host of new players.
The goal for the 2011 Mystics is to build off last season’s success with a redefined approach and an infusion of fresh talent. Whether and how all the pieces will fit together remains to be seen. Washington begins its season June 4 at Connecticut.
“We’ve got a lot to put in,” said Trudi Lacey, the Mystics’ coach and general manager. “We put in a couple offenses [Sunday] and one of our pick-and-roll defenses, so we’re going to keep it moving. I think that’s what’s going to separate people is whether they can retain the information and apply it right away.”
Four of Washington’s top eight scorers from last season either are no longer on the roster or will not be available because of injury. Guards Lindsey Harding and Katie Smith were traded away last month. Forward Nakia Sanford left via free agency. Forward Monique Currie — the team’s second-leading scorer last season — likely will miss the entire season after tearing the ACL in her left knee in January.
While the Mystics have lost four starters from last year’s team, they will regain the services of wing player Alana Beard, a four-time all-star who sat out the 2010 season while recovering from a left ankle tendon injury.
Beard “looked great,” said forward Crystal Langhorne, the team’s leading returning scorer. “Monique said [Beard] was back for real, for real, and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, she was out last year,’ just because how she looked [Sunday]. I had forgot about it.”
Langhorne and Beard will be joined by six players — each of whom are versatile and share an appreciation for defense — who were acquired either through the WNBA draft or via trade within the past six weeks.
During a three-day span in early April, Lacey traded for center Nicky Anosike, rookie center Ta’Shia Phillips and point guard Kelly Miller and drafted forward Victoria Dunlap and wing player Karima Christmas. In late April, Lacey picked up rookie point guard Jasmine Thomas, a three-time All-Met selection at Oakton High, in a three-team deal that sent Smith to Seattle.
Thomas, Christmas and Phillips did not practice Sunday because of college graduation obligations. All three players are expected arrive at training camp this week.
Lacey was named coach and general manager in November after Washington did not retain general manager Angela Taylor or coach Julie Plank. Lacey, who previously served as coach and general manager of the Charlotte Sting from 2003 to 2006, has been with the Mystics since 2009.
“The system Trudi put in is sort of like she’s forcing us to think of the game ourselves, which is amazing because we’ve been playing this game for years and we know the game,” Beard said. “Trudi’s doing a great job of just implementing a system where we have to play the game. There’s not a lot of thinking; it’s not a robotic system. It’s allowing us to play to our strengths, and I think I’m going to like it.”