Holdsclaw's return boosts Mystics' run

5-4 in her absence, team seeking first Eastern title

Pro Basketball

July 27, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Washington Mystics plan to distribute bobblehead dolls in the likeness of their best player, Chamique Holdsclaw, before tonight's game against the Seattle Storm.

It's a good thing then that Holdsclaw will actually be in the lineup and will help the Mystics make a run at the team's first WNBA Eastern Conference title.

Holdsclaw, a 6-foot-2 forward in her fourth year, missed nine games and the Mystics (15-8), who have led the East wire-to-wire, won five of them.

But Washington has lost two straight for only the second time all year, and the time felt right for Holdsclaw to come back.

"I've waited a month for this opportunity," Holdsclaw said after yesterday's practice. "When I first hurt my ankle, I remember thinking I would be out five to six days, but when the doctor told me it could be a month, I was crushed because I was probably playing the best basketball of my career. Sitting out has been tough, and coming to every game and having to watch for 40 minutes has been tough, too."

Holdsclaw, who is averaging 19.9 points and 11.8 rebounds a game, suffered the injury during a scramble with the Portland Fire's DeMya Walker on June 28. At the time of the injury, Holdsclaw was leading the league in scoring and rebounding. She was voted a starter in the All-Star Game at MCI Center two weeks ago, but did not play.

The Mystics, who are two wins from clinching the first winning record in franchise history, have played well in spurts without Holdsclaw but clearly miss her offense and her ability to get a rebound and push the ball up the floor.

"The thing that has always helped me through my injuries is I don't come back tentative. I come back confident," said Holdsclaw, the 1999 WNBA Rookie of the Year. "I know off the bat, I can give something to this team, if it's just my rebounding. It would really help our transition game, which has slowed down a little bit. I expect to be rusty in a few spots, but overall, I think I can contribute in a positive way to this team."

Holdsclaw said she is about "90-95 percent," but that's more than enough for Mystics coach Marianne Stanley.

"It [her return] gives us an emotional lift," Stanley said. "She's a confident player who can dominate games. Obviously, you go into the game feeling much better that you've got that kind of player in your arsenal and the other team has to be concerned with it. I look at it like the last nine games - those nine teams got a free pass to not have to worry about Chamique Holdsclaw. Now, Seattle's got the unlucky draw and they have to worry about her, and so does everybody else that we've got. And that's what we wanted to ensure. "

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