The Washington Mystics yesterday traded forward Chamique Holdsclaw, the team's cornerstone for six years and one of the premier players in women's basketball, to the Los Angeles Sparks in exchange for DeLisha Milton-Jones and the Sparks' first-round draft pick.
Milton-Jones is a 6-1 forward who averaged 9.8 points and 4.7 rebounds last season and won two WNBA championships with the Sparks. The pick obtained by the Mystics is the 13th overall in the 2005 draft.
Chamique Holdsclaw played 162 games for the Mystics and for her career averaged 18.3 points and 9 rebounds per game. Last year she left with 11 games remaining in the regular season and later said she was suffering from depression.
(Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)
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Holdsclaw, one of the WNBA's top scorers and rebounders, averaged 19 points and 8.3 rebounds per game last season. The move follows a season in which Holdsclaw, a three-time WNBA all-star, missed 11 regular season games and the club's third playoff appearance when she dropped out of the lineup in July. The reason for her absence was a mystery at the time, but she later said she had been suffering from depression. In an interview with The Washington Post in October, Holdsclaw said that the depression was triggered by the death of her grandmother in 2003 and that in her darkest hours she had considered quitting basketball.
In a statement, Washington Sports and Entertainment President Susan O'Malley thanked Holdsclaw for her service to the Mystics. "Obviously, Chamique went through a very trying time personally last season, and we have attempted to support her in every way possible," O'Malley said. "When she asked us to consider trading her for a fresh start, we felt it was best for everyone to honor that request. We wish only the best for Chamique both personally and professionally."
Lon Babby, Holdsclaw's District-based agent, said both Holdsclaw and the team agreed it was time to part ways.
"After we analyzed the situation we concluded that it was probably best for both sides that we turn the page and give her a chance to start fresh somewhere else," Babby said. "She is excited at the prospect of competing on a team that has an absolutely legitimate chance to win championships and has won championships before."
In a statement from Holdsclaw, released by the Mystics, the 27-year-old former University of Tennessee star said: "I want to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to the Washington Mystics fans for their unwavering support, kindness and loyalty during my six years with the team -- especially during the tough times of this past season. I know that I greatly benefited from my experiences in Washington."
At the end of the 2004 season, the Mystics said little about Holdsclaw's future with the club or the WNBA. A source close to the team said the Mystics received numerous offers for Holdsclaw in the offseason, even while some clubs were wary of Holdsclaw's fitness to play.
Holdsclaw dispelled any doubts about her health the past few months by playing for a professional women's team in Spain.
Last week, the Mystics narrowed the offers for Holdsclaw to Los Angeles and Sacramento, who had offered a package that included all-star Yolanda Griffith, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations.
For the Mystics, trading the 6-2 Holdsclaw is a signal the club will build around guard Alana Beard, who in her rookie year last season helped fuel the Mystics' late-season surge that landed the club in the playoffs.
Behind Beard, the Mystics won seven of their final 10 regular season games -- all with Holdsclaw out of the lineup. Beard averaged 22.5 points over the team's final six games.
Holdsclaw was the Mystics' No.1 draft pick in 1999. At Tennessee, Holdsclaw won three consecutive national championships and she has been consistently among the WNBA leaders in scoring and rebounding.
Holdsclaw played 162 games for the Mystics for a career average of 18.3 points and nine rebounds per game.
Los Angeles could have one of the WNBA's most formidable front courts with Holdsclaw and 6-5 center Lisa Leslie, the league's reigning MVP. The Sparks went 25-9 last season but lost in the first round of the playoffs. Milton-Jones is coming off a knee injury that sidelined her for almost half of last season, according to the Los Angeles Times. She has recuperated and is playing overseas this winter, the paper reported.