Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Washington Mystics power forward DeLisha Milton-Jones could miss the rest of the regular season after spraining her left medial collateral ligament Saturday during a victory over New York.
Milton-Jones, who is second on the team in scoring (12.8 points per game), will be out for six to eight weeks. She will be replaced in the starting lineup by Nakia Sanford beginning with tonight's game against the New York Liberty at Madison Square Garden.
"This is a big loss for us because DeLisha brings so much to our team," Mystics Coach Richie Adubato said. "She's our only big [player] who can shoot from the outside and that stretches the defense. Not having her is detrimental for us because in my offense, we've always had a [power forward] who could shoot from the outside."
Milton-Jones suffered the injury when she collided with the Liberty's Ashley Battle while diving for a loose ball with 1 minute 11 seconds left in the second quarter.
Sanford, who last started in 2004, took Milton-Jones's spot during practice yesterday as Milton-Jones watched from the sideline on crutches.
"I never wanted to start by default," Sanford said. "No one player can replace DeLisha."
The absence of Milton-Jones, who was recently named to the U.S. national team that will play in the upcoming FIBA World Championship, disrupts the Mystics' rotation. Milton-Jones occasionally moves to small forward when Crystal Robinson goes to the bench, and Adubato said he likely will have to use rookie small forward Tamara James or possibly Alana Beard -- who starts at shooting guard -- to replace Robinson.
Milton-Jones's spot on the roster will be taken by rookie Zane Teilane , a 6-foot-7, 170-pound center who has been on the inactive list all season because the Mystics felt she wasn't physically ready to compete in the WNBA.
"We just hope Zane can give us three or four minutes a game -- she's a project," Adubato said. "She's still a couple of years away" from being a major contributor.
The Mystics (7-3) are entering a pivotal stretch of the season. After tonight's game against the Liberty (2-9), which Washington has defeated twice by an average of 26.5 points, the Mystics play five consecutive games against teams that were in the playoffs last year and likely will qualify again this summer. Washington plays at Detroit (6-4) on Saturday, hosts Connecticut (7-3) on Sunday and Indiana (8-4) on Tuesday before heading West for a four-game trip.
-- Jon Gallo