Sunday, April 23, 2006
Washington Mystics Coach Richie Adubato said he is looking forward to the beginning of training camp this afternoon at Verizon Center, though four top players will not participate.
Three starters -- point guard Nikki Teasley , power forward DeLisha Milton-Jones and small forward Crystal Robinson -- still are playing overseas and likely will return in the next week. Reserve forward Nakia Sanford injured her right pinkie finger last week playing professionally in Italy and will meet with a specialist tomorrow.
The Mystics went 16-18 last year and missed the playoffs by one game. But Adubato feels this year's team should be better after acquiring Teasley in a trade with Los Angeles and signing Robinson, a free agent from the New York Liberty. Adubato also believes first-round draft pick Tamara James , a forward from Miami, and second-round draft pick Nikki Blue , a guard from UCLA, will contribute as reserves.
"We came up just short of making the playoffs last year and we have upgraded our roster," Adubato said. "I think Crystal is one of the best defenders in the league and a clutch shooter. We have some new faces, but we have the same nucleus returning."
The Mystics expect 15 players at practice today, which Adubato said is critical because we wants to divide the group into three teams. WNBA teams are allowed to have 18 players in training camp and can have 13 players on the opening day roster as long as they are under the $700,000 salary cap.
"I see us being able to keep 11 or 12, but no way we'll have 13," said Linda Hargrove , the team's general manager. "I think the baseline goal is definitely making the playoffs because I feel we have the personnel in place to make us a better team than last year."
After today's two-hour practice, the Mystics will hold their remaining training camp at Gallaudet University. The first preseason game will be May 6 against San Antonio in Wichita. The Mystics will host Houston in their final preseason game on May 13 and open the season at Verizon Center against the New York Liberty on May 23 at 7 p.m.
-- Jon Gallo