washingtonpost.com
Washington Mystics

Jon Gallo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 18, 2006 11:00 AM

On Friday, August 18, at 11 a.m. ET , Washington Post staff writer Jon Gallo took your questions and comments as the Washington Mystics begin their WNBA playoff run.

The transcript follows.

From The Post:

Mystics Eye Record as Playoffs Loom (Post, August 11)

Complete Coverage

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Jon Gallo: It's T minus 8 hours until the Mystics begin their best-of-three playoff series against the Sun at Verizon Center. Time to answer some questions.....

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Simi Valley, Calif.: Do you think the WNBA needs to tweak its playoff format a little bit? Maybe the first two rounds are a best-of-five (2-2-1 with the team with the better record getting the home-court advantage) and the WNBA finals a best-of-seven (2-2-1-1-1), I know that might extend the postseason a little too much, but what do you think?

Jon Gallo: You make a really good point, and in a perfect world, that would be the format. However, I don't see the format changing. Here's why: If that was the format this year, then the first round would not end until August 24. Then the advancing teams would almost certainly get two days off. The conference finals would begin on Aug. 26 and end around Sept. 1 or 2. The finals would start probably on Sept. 5 and end around Sept. 13. Here's the problem: The FIBA World Championships start on Sept. 12 in Brazil. Let's say Houston and Washington make it to the WNBA finals this year. That means Alana Beard, DeLisha Milton-Jones, Tina Thompson and Sheryl Swoopes would miss at least one game and would not be at training camp. Those four players represent 25 percent of the team. Also, what about the playoffs during Olympic years when the league takes a mid-season break? In 2004, the Mystics had a game on Aug. 1 and then did not play until Sept. 1. That season, the playoffs began on Sept. 24 and did not end until Oct. 12.

In my opinion, the only way tweaking that could possibly be done is to make the conference finals best-of-five instead of best-of-three. But right now, the WNBA needs to worry making the most of what they have. The NBA received a huge spike earlier this summer because let's face it, the playoffs were awesome. The games were so good they made you want to stay up late and watch the Suns-Clippers or Sun-Mavericks. The WNBA doesn't just want to have great games this postseason: it needs to have them. This weekend is pivotal. On Saturday, ABC is showing Sacramento-Houston. On Sunday, ABC is showing Mystics at Connecticut. What ABC doesn't need to for the Sacramento-Houston game to be over by halftime like it was last night when Sacramento did pretty much everything they want to is a 93-78 win. My goodness, they led 58-30 at intermission, setting WNBA playoff records for points in a half and largest halftime lead.

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Washington, D.C.: Most "experts" are picking Connecticut to sweep, not even giving the Mystics the home game tonight, although they've beaten the Sun here in D.C. this season. I'll admit that the Sun are a great team, but why do you think the Mystics are getting no respect?

Jon Gallo: Here's why: 1. Connecticut had the best record in the league. 2. Washington went 6-11 against teams in the playoffs. 3. Connecticut is the two-time Eastern Conference champions---and Washington has won one playoff series in franchise history. 4. Connecticut has the home court advantage and play in a building where Washington hasn't won since 2003 are 1-7 all-time.

However, there is one thing the Mystics have that I feel is being overlooked: the Mystics have players with championship rings. Nikki Teasley, DeLisha-Milton-Jones and Latasha Byears all won it all with the Sparks. If Washington is to have any chance of winning the series, they must win tonight. And if they win, then I can see them winning once in Connecticut.

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Lusby, Md.: If you were GM Linda Hargrove, what post-season moves would you make to improve the team?

Jon Gallo: Do you mean at the end of the season? Well, right now it's too early to tell. If the Mystics get to the conference finals, then I'm not sure they change that much. They might bring a player in, but it is unlikely they would overhaul the team. If they reach the conference final, then they will draft pretty late in the first round and that's when you start hearing the phrase "we're going to pick the best player available." However, if the Mystics lose to Connecticut, then Linda will have to examine WHY the Mystics lost. Was it the frontcourt? Was the problem at point guard? Was it lack of depth? Right now, Linda Hargrove put together a team that has won more games during the regular season than any other in franchise history. And truth be told, if DeLisha Milton-Jones doesn't get hurt, then the Mystics would not be the fourth seed and not be playing Connecticut. But DMJ did get hurt. I think before fans and fans and the media start to second guess Hargrove we need to see what happens during the coming weeks.

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Washington, D.C.: Why does it seem that Zane T. is getting more time than Latasha Byears?

Jon Gallo: Latasha Byears is suffering from tendinitis in her right foot. Some days, she has to stay in bed and can't practice. She's also been plagued by knee problems. The Mystics didn't want to push her since they will need her to come off the bench and provide a physical presence. If all the Mystics stayed healthy during the season, than Zane would have been on the inactive list all season---that was the plan from the start. Zane would have practiced with the team and gotten stronger and would have competed for playing time next year. In college terms, it would have been "redshirting." But obviously, the Mystics have suffered some injuries, and that forced the Coach Richie Adubato to change his plan.

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Washington, D.C.: What more do you think we can expect from Chastity Melvin?

Jon Gallo: I know the Mystics are hoping Chastity Melvin starts popping her jersey on the court tonight because that means she's doing big things. I think Chasity knows how important she is and this is a chance for her to prove to the organization why she deserves a long-term contract. She has a lot riding on this series.

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Columbia, Md.: Good morning Jon! Who do you think the top players will be during the playoffs, both from Washington and from Connecticut. Thanks!

Jon Gallo: If the Mystics are going to win, they need huge performances from guard Alana Beard and forward DeLisha-Milton Jones. For the Sun to win, they need big games from Katie Douglas and Taj McWilliams-Franklin. Douglas is a terrific player---some "experts" think she is the league's MVP. McWilliams-Franklin is the Sun's best post player. She's a great rebounder and is tough to stop near the basket. But the series could come down to X-Factors. For the Mystics, it's Chasity Melvin. In some games, she's great. In other games, she seems to disappear. If Melvin can stay out of foul trouble and post a double-double, then she will give the Mystics exactly what they need. For the Sun, it's 7-foot-2 Margo Dydek. One-on-one, the Mystics don't have anyone who can guard her. But if the game is played at a fast pace, Margo becomes a liability because she can't run up and down the court as fast as the other players.

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Washington, D.C.: How do you weigh the Mystics Home Court Advantage with other WNBA teams playing at home? Are we really the best fans? Do we really have the best owner (Sheila Johnson)? Is the GM making sure of that with all the fun fan things going on in and around the arena?

Jon Gallo: It's hard for me to say. I haven't been to any other WNBA arenas. However, Washington went a franchise record 14-3 at Verizon Center this year. It seems Verizon Center has become a daunting place to play. As for Sheila Johnson, what more do you want from her. She invites fans to sit with her in the owner's box. She bought everyone in attendance against Detroit a "Pax Panda Bears." Speaking of of those bears, I was on eBay the other day and saw one was for sale and had received bids....Sheila sang the national anthem, she's given Washington the best Mystics team it has ever had and if you ask any player, I guarantee they will say they love playing for Sheila. Sheila is in the locker room after the game and feeds them dinner. I'm not talking about hot dogs, either. She'll give them salmon, steak, salads, etc. Sheila clearly did not spend $10 million so she can run a second-class organization. As for the GM portion of you question, I'm not sure what more game day activities you want. It seems every time there is a break in action, some promotional giveaway is taking place on the court or in the stands.

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Silver Spring, Md.: At last Friday's game, Richie seemed much more subdued than usual, spent most of his time on or near the bench, and was drinking something regularly through the game. Marynell Meadors did most of the yelling, half-court wandering, etc. Was Richie ill?

Jon Gallo: Great observation. Richie lost his voice and could barely talk. He couldn't yell at the referees. The only time his team could hear him was during timeouts when he was right in their faces. Before the game, I was talking to Richie in the locker room and I thought he was sick, but when he told me that he lost his voice, I realized it was going to be pretty tough for him to get a technical foul.

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Washington, D.C.: Coco Miller always go hard when she is on the floor. Can we expect more playing time for her in the series? Do you think with more defensive work, Laurie Koehn will see more time, because clearly she holds her own offensively.

Jon Gallo: Coco Miller will see plenty of playing time during the series and if she improves as much as she did from last year to this year, she could push for a starting job next year. Richie believes the only part of her game that is lacking is her passing, but it's gotten better. As for Laurie Koehn, the question is not her offensive skills. If the Mystics ever hold an open practice, you should see this girl shoot. It's a thing of beauty. If the Sun goes into a zone tonight, Laurie is coming in and shooting three pointers. Now, if she could only get a little bit better on defense.......

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Cable-less in Van Ness: I'm cable-less and have asked friends to record the Mystics playoff game. What cable station in the D.C. area is televising the Mystics playoff game tonight?

Jon Gallo: NBA-TV.

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Washington, D.C.: Will you be in Connecticut for the game on Sunday and if not, why not?

Jon Gallo: Absolutely. I leave tomorrow afternoon and will be there for Game 2 and if necessary, Game 3. I just hope that I do not bet my entire paycheck on one hand of blackjack since the Sun plays at the Mohegan Sun Arena, which is connected to the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you agree with Coach Adubato's decision to leave Tamara James off the playoff roster? If so, why? If not, who would you have chosen, and why?

Jon Gallo: It was a tough call, but in the end, it came down to size. Connecticut has a big front court. So does Detroit. I think Tamara James is a better player than Zane Teilane, and I think the Mystics would agree. But Zane gives the Mystics what they need more than James: height. Teilane is 6-7; James is 5-10. Teilane has a better chance of providing interior defense and rebounding than James. But in the long run, Tamara has a better future. Richie likes her ability to score and once she gets better at defense, she has a chance to start.

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Washington, D.C.: Sheila J hasn't given us the best Mystics team ever, Linda H has. She was here before Sheila. Sheila has been smart to keep her, but it's Linda who has made the player personnel moves. (And Linda has ZIP to do with in-arena entertainment during the games, btw.)

Jon Gallo: Sheila has given Linda the resources to succeed, which is big. You think every owner running a professional sports team gives their front office everything they need? No.

No one ever said Linda hasn't done a good job. She has assembled the best team in franchise history. Now, it's time to see how it fares against the rest of the league. Also, Linda sits in the front row at every home game and if there was some "in-arena entertainment" she felt was questionable, it would not take place.

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Alexandria, Va.: Why does the front page of the Sports Section say tonight's game is at 7:30 p.m.?

Jon Gallo: Good question. For the record, the game starts at 7. The Mystics are urging everyone to come to the game dressed in white because according to Ketsia Colimon, the team's public relations director, they want to "Paint the Town White."

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DC 20015: Jon,

It seems like the Mystics need one young, improving scorer at small forward, someone fast and a good outside shooter, to add to their current line-up and contend for it all. How do they add this piece?

Jon Gallo: It's not that simple. The Mystics went into the season just under the $700,000 salary cap. They did not have enough money to sign a player during the season. The Mystics must either trade a player or release a player during the offseason to add a player. Who should they give up? Nakia Sanford? She's been the team's most improved player. Tamara James? Are the Mystics going to get rid of their first-round draft pick after only one season? Coco Miller? No way. She could start on a lot of teams. Laurie Koehn? The Mystics have invested two years in her. She's the team's best three-point shooter. The Mystics could trade her, but they would need someone pretty good in return. I talked to Linda about personnel movement, and she said made a great point: you want quality, you have to give up quality. The Mystics feel that when healthy, they can beat any team in the league. Remember, when they were healthy at the start of the year, they were tied atop the Eastern Conference with Connecticut at 7-3.

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Alexandria, Va.: Jon,

Will you be following the team...like some of us...up to Connecticut on Sunday?

Jon Gallo: No. I leave on Saturday.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: I just wanted to thank you for your individual coverage of the Mystics this season. Your coverage has thorough and enthusiastic.

Please keep it up!

Jon Gallo: Thanks. I need to ask the President of the Jon Gallo fan club to stop asking questions.

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Alexandria, Va.: Sheila Johnson and her partners have now finished their first complete regular season as the Mystics' owners. How would you rate the job they've done marketing the team? What would you suggest they improve?

Jon Gallo: Obviously, they got off to a bad start in the marketing department, but their marketing department isn't very big. But it also isn't a secret and I spoke to Chief Operating Officer Curtis Symonds before the game against Detroit and you can expect the Mystics to be much more aggressive during the offseason. The Mystics are going to make a huge push to increase group sales and increase their presence in the D.C. area. Also, heading into the season, the Mystics were coming off a disappointing year and that's hard to market. Now, the organization can market a team that at the very least, had its most successful regular season in franchise history.

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Temple Hills, Md.: As a 5 year Mystics season-ticket holder, I can say that Sheila Johnson has indeed made a huge difference for the fans. The number one thing she brings is her presence. Her excitement is contagious. If you take a look around the stadium, you see many of the staff members (I don't think Curtis Symonds ever sits!) walking around, talking to fans. That just did not happen prior to last year.

Jon Gallo: I like this person because he or she reassures me that I know what I'm talking about.

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Arlington, Va.: I agree, the panda giveaway was fabulous. But don't you think it's a little over the top for an owner to give away "figurines" of herself? (BTW, you can get one of those on eBay too!)

Jon Gallo: Not really. People liked the figurines, and I think I know why: it says you don't need to be an athlete to get a bobblehead/figurine. Sheila Johnson is in many ways, the symbol of a successful business woman. I think the message it sends to kids is this: By all means, if you can play your way into the WNBA and be a roll model like Alana Beard, that's great. But not making it to the WNBA does not mean you are not a roll model. Go to college. Graduate. Work Hard. Make your community a better place. You can be a roll model that way. Here is what Sheila Johnson and Alana Beard have in common: they have both done something that warrants them getting a figurine.

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Rockland, Maine: I am a big fan of the Mystics. Although I am on vacation, I still follow the Mystics. Realistically, what are their chances in getting to the next round of the playoffs?

Jon Gallo: Tonight's game is huge. There have been 20 first-round series in the WNBA that have been best-of-three. The team that has won game one has won the series 16 times. That's 80 percent. And judging by the way Sacramento and Detroit played to win the first game of their respective series, I like their chances to advance to the conference finals.

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Washington, D.C.: I don't understand how players who are 6'8" tall can't dunk.

Jon Gallo: I'm 5-foot-7 and let's just say the only hoop I can dunk on is the one hanging on the door inside my house that requires a NERF ball. I'm definitely not the person who should comment on dunking.

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Washington, D.C.: What do you think new owner Sheila Johnson has done best this season? What aspects of management/marketing need improvement?

Jon Gallo: Obviously, they got off to a bad start in the marketing department, but their marketing department isn't very big. But it also isn't a secret and I spoke to COO Curtis Symonds before the game against Detroit and you can expect the Mystics to be much more aggressive during the offseason. The Mystics are going to make a huge push to increase group sales and increase their presence in the D.C. area. Also, heading into the season, the Mystics were coming off a disappointing year and that's hard to market. Now, the organization can market a team that at the very least, had its most successful regular season in franchise history.

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Rockville, Md.: Any chance the Mystics will take down those embarrassing "attendance champion" banners? I hate looking at them every time I go to the Verizon Center.

Jon Gallo: You are certainly not the first to bring up that point. The attendance banners were largely achieved because the Mystics gave away approximately 30 percent of their tickets before Sheila Johnson took over the team. If the Mystics had made everyone pay for a ticket, then they would not have had the best attendance in the league. As for taking them down, I don't know.

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Pennsylvania Ave. NW: Weren't the pandas the best giveaway you've ever seen in the WNBA? I've been a season-ticket holder for 9 years and I can't think of anything that even comes close?!

Jon Gallo: I don't know if it's No. 1 on my list, but it was certainly up there.

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Washington, D.C.: Which player on the Mystics has made your job the easiest this summer doing your game stories and features? Which one the most difficult?

Jon Gallo: This is the easiest question of the day. All of the Mystics are easy to talk to. They understand the media's role. Before the game, the media gets a half-hour of open locker room, meaning we can talk to any player or coach about anything. After the game, there is a 10 minute cooling off period and then the locker rooms are open to the media. All of the players talk after wins and losses. It's a very media-friendly team.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: If we are going to mention hard work and positive role models, why isn't more done to market women athletes and why isn't there better media coverage?

Jon Gallo: It is not The Washington Post's job to market women athletes. It's our newspaper's job to cover women athletes. The Mystics have consistently made the front page of sports. We do on-line chats. We write previews/game stories/features/enterprise stories. Please feel free to email me at galloj@washpost.com if you feel our Mystics coverage has not been good and fair this year.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What are the chances of the Mystics (or any WNBA team) drafting a player out of one of the academies? These women are tough and KNOW how to gut it out! GO ARMY!

Jon Gallo: I don't see it happening. After one graduates from a service academy, one must fulfill his or her contractual obligation to serve his or her country. Navy prevented Kyle Eckel from earning a spot on an NFL team last year, and even David Robinson could not jump to the NBA right away.

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Washington, D.C.: If the Mystics can get a win tonight, how would you rate their chances of pulling an upset and advancing to round 2?

Jon Gallo: Again, of the 20 first-round, best-of three series, the team that wins the first game is 16-4. If I'm the Mystics, I really, really like those odds.

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Bethesda, Md.: Jon,

What can we expect in the way of fan support for tonight's game? Has D.C. truly embraced the WNBA and Shelia Johnson's involvement in trying to operate as a real business venture? Can the Mystics deliver against the strong Connecticut bunch? See ya at the game? Hope that there are tickets still available.

Thanks so much for the chat.

Jon Gallo: There are still a bunch of tickets available. It should be a great game. At the beginning of the season, the Mystics essentially promised they would make the playoffs, and they did. Now, they are hoping their fans can pack Verizon Center and give them a big home court advantage.

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Washington, D.C.: What are the Mystics doing today to prepare for tonight? I want to know this because they are so cool, and I want them to win.

Jon Gallo: I spoke to Richie on the phone during halftime of last night's game between Detroit and Indiana. He broken down nearly 10 of the Sun's games to make sure his team is as prepared as they can be. He's put the work in, now it's up to the Mystics to execute.

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Jon Gallo: Well, thanks for all of the questions and we're out of time. In the words of the great Porky Pig, "That's all folks!"

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