Chasity Melvin stopped studying the box scores a few weeks ago. The numbers depress her.
She used to look forward to seeing her postgame statistics, confident that lofty figures would reaffirm a good performance. Now, a quick glance at the sheet leaves her with a series of questions: "I only took four shots? How can I get into a rhythm with that? Why am I not producing?"
Seven games into the 2004 WNBA season, Melvin is stuck in the worst slump of her career -- and the Mystics (2-5) are suffering for it. When Washington acquired Melvin in last year's dispersal draft, it thought it had snagged an all-star. Instead, it got a rusty power forward who averages four points and two rebounds.
The Mystics will need considerably more from Melvin if they hope to win their first home game of the season today, at 2 p.m., against the New York Liberty (6-2) at Comcast Center in College Park.
"I've got to learn how to be a role player, not a star," Melvin said Friday after scoring one point in a 74-60 loss to the Detroit Shock. "I'm used to being able to get a lot of shots and get into a rhythm, but that's not the way it's going to be here. I need to become part of the offense."
In her first year with the Mystics, Melvin has looked like a shadow of the feared low-post player she became during five years with the now-defunct Cleveland Rockers. There, she averaged more than 11 points and six rebounds. She took her team to the playoffs three times and made the all-star team in 2001.
"She was the grittiest, toughest player we had," said Dan Hughes, who coached the Rockers. "Before any big game, I just had this confidence that she would come through for us. She was our go-to option."
Melvin expected a similar role with Washington. Shortly after the dispersal draft, she talked strategy with members of the Mystics' front office. They told her that she would be a major inside presence, a regular starter who averaged about 10 shots.
But Melvin fumbled her way out of the starting lineup after four games. Unfamiliar teammates rarely give her the basketball and, when they do, she makes her shots just 34 percent of the time.
Take one possession in the first half against Detroit: Melvin missed two shots from about five feet, scrambled back into position and called for the ball again. When nobody passed it her way, she shook her head and jogged back down court.
"We're not communicating," guard Tamicha Jackson said. "We're still learning how she plays, and it hasn't come together yet."
"We need to find a way to get more from [Melvin] down low," Mystics Coach Michael Adams said. "Somehow, she needs to be more involved."
In Cleveland, Hughes included Melvin in the offense by advising his guards to throw her the ball nearly every possession. It's a strategy Washington may soon consider. The Mystics are desperate for a second scorer, a role Melvin would love to fill. Chamique Holdsclaw leads the WNBA in scoring by averaging 21.1 points, but no other Washington player scores in double figures.
"I want to help this team win so bad," Melvin said. "But I can't really do it if I never get the chance to get into a rhythm."