As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Case in point, the Mystics contest against the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday.To Washington Coach Trudi Lacey, the matinee affair was probably one of our best games. To the Verizon Center scoreboard, it was the latest loss in a season filled with frustration. The Mystics twice rallied from double-digit deficits before succumbing to the first place Sun, 77-70.With the two sides meeting up again in Connecticut on Wednesday, the Mystics (3-12) have an immediate opportunity to turn their perceived strong effort into a much-needed win. Of course, Washington is 0-3 against the Eastern Conference leaders this season and has lost seven straight in the series.In fairness to Lacey and some of her players who sang a similar optimistic tune in the postgame locker room, there were signs of improvement. Despite facing a Sun (13-4) frontline that counts two Olympians Tina Charles and Asjha Jones among its starters, the Mystics dominated the rebounding battle on both ends.Washington finished with a 38-23 edge, 15-3 off the offensive glass. In the first half, second-chance points accounted for half the teams 30 points and fueled an initial comeback which included taking a 39-38 lead in the third quarter. Crystal Langhorne paced five double figure scorers with 15 points while Michelle Snow had 10 points and 11 rebounds, six offensive. The Mystics doled out 17 assists on 28 made baskets. They held Connecticut to eight points in the second quarter.That was probably one of our best games. We had fifteen offensive rebounds, and we took care of the ball and distributed the ball, Lacey said.And yet, victory eluded them and annoyance showed.It gets frustrating because these teams are easily beatable. Its within us to overcome an obstacle thats making us not win these games. We just have to do it, said Matee Ajavon.The Mystics starting off-guard scored 13 points, but played only 19 minutes as Lacey turned elsewhere when a defensive presence was required.Northern Virginia native Kara Lawson scored 17 points and headlined a perimeter shooting effort that saw the Sun knock down 7 of 13 from beyond the arc. Two of those 3-pointers came from Tan White during a 15-2 run bridging the third and fourth quarter that turned a back-and-forth affair into a 63-52 Connecticut lead.We had a great stretch there in the third quarter that spread it out, beginning the fourth, said Lawson who made three 3s in the Suns third straight win. Tan hit some shots for us. When things arent going right for us offensively, we were able to string together some buckets and get some stops. It was a good win for us.Once again, the Mystics rallied, using a 12-4 run capped by Monique Curries bank shot to pull closer at 67-64 with 2:59 to go. However, White converted a conventional three-point play and the Sun shot 8 for 9 on free throws in the final 2:01 to seal the win. I thought down the stretch when we needed to get stops we didnt, Lacey said. We ended up putting them on the free throw line. Really, that was the difference in the game. They shot well from three, which hurt us.Following Wednesdays game, the Mystics close the first half of the season in New York on Friday before the league takes a month-long Olympic break. Washington hosts Connecticut a third time on September 4.The Sun shot well from everywhere early, making 11 straight attempts in the first quarter, four from Charles (16 points). Considering the Mystics hung tough despite that start and had a punchers chance late against a star-studded team, maybe talk of it being one of our best games is indeed fair. Of course, the scoreboard never lies.
The Redskins have a quarterback battle. Repeat, the Redskins have a quarterback battle. This is not a drill. It is an open competition.
When the team gathers in Ashburn on Monday for offseason training activities, it will be the first time that veteran passer Case Keenum and first-round rookie Dwayne Haskins will be on the field at the same time. Incumbent backup QB Colt McCoy should be present as well, but not active as he works back from multiple leg surgeries this offseason.
The team has plenty of questions for the 2019 season, and the answers will start coming as early as this week. No question is bigger than the signal caller though.
- QB Battle - Every major factor in the Redskins organization has been clear that Haskins will get a chance to compete for the starting job. That means every throw between Keenum, the presumed starter after the 'Skins traded for him in February, and the Ohio State rookie will be over analyzed. If McCoy was healthy, he would have a jump start in the competition because he knows head coach Jay Gruden's offense. McCoy isn't healthy though, and that means more reps and work for Keenum and Haskins. This battle will be ongoing throughout the summer, but on Monday with the media present, it will be very interesting to see what player gets more work with the first-team offense.
- Who's still hurt - Speaking of the first-team offense, a number of players will be working back from offseason surgery. Will Paul Richardson be out there? Trent Williams? How healthy is Jordan Reed, and what about Derrius Guice? Brandon Scherff? There are a lot of questions, and some of them will be answered simply by seeing guys run around. Second-year wideouts Cam Sims and Trey Quinn both finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve; will they be ready to go? There are a lot of people to watch out for.
- STARTING DEFENSE (LATIMER VOICE*) - Landon Collins was the prize of free agency, and Monday he will be on the field barking directions at teammates. How will he fit in with Josh Norman, and how does Quinton Dunbar look? When Dunbar went down with a leg nerve injury last season, the Washington defense fell apart. If he is all the way back would be big news for Greg Manusky's defense. There's also Reuben Foster. This will be the first time for the media to see Foster on the field in a Redskins uniform after his controversial acquisition last November. Presumably Foster will answer questions after the OTA session, stay tuned for that.
- Camp is over for the rookies - Beyond Haskins, the Redskins have nine other draft picks taking part in OTAs. The rookies went through their own private minicamp last week, but this will be quite different. Rookie minicamp is about letting the new players get acclimated to the new facility and team; OTAs are about real work. Will Montez Sweat take the field with the Redskins first-team defense? What about the two rookie receivers in Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon? There will be hiccups for the rookies, that's inevitable, but now is the time to prove they belong. With all the injuries on the offensive line, Wes Martin has the inside track on a starting job.
- Absent, but not hurt - Never forget that OTAs are voluntary for players, and usually a handful of guys don't show up. That will likely happen tomorrow and some fans might react negatively. Don't be one of them.
* If you don't get that reference, go watch The Program.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS
We can begin free agent watch with the Washington Wizards way before July 1.
This isn’t about players. Coaching changes can happen whenever.
News broke Saturday out of Houston that the Rockets would not retain associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik. Considered one of the league’s top defensive minds, Bzdelik’s relationship with Scott Brooks along with comments made by the Wizards head coach at the NBA Combine makes this transaction interesting.
Bzdelik, 66, gave Brooks his first NBA coaching job when the then Denver Nuggets head coach hired the former player in 2003.
"I'm thankful for coach Bzdelik," Brooks told the Houston Chronicle in 2016. "He gave me my first NBA coaching start. One of the best coaches I've ever been around. He has great understanding of the game, both ends of the floor.”
Fast forward to Thursday inside Chicago’s Quest Multisport facility. Amid 5-on-5 games involving 2019 draft prospects, players holding court with media members and the general convention vibe that comes with the NBA Combine, Brooks spent a few minutes chatting with reporters.
Among the non-draft or general manager search topics, whether any changes to the coaching staff were forthcoming.
"I’ve talked to Ted. I definitely talked Ted,” Brooks began his reply, referencing Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. “I have a lot of respect for our organization. I have to get better, first and foremost…Will the staff remain the same? Every year, staffs change. Every year staffs change. We're probably going to make some changes. I don't know if it's for sure. Everything is still up in the air.”
Brooks also noted change could come from members of his staff seeking opportunities elsewhere. Tony Brown, Brooks’ lead assistant during his three seasons with the Wizards, became a coaching free agent following Washington’s 32-50 season, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller.
Two days after Brooks’ comments came news of Bzdelik’s exit in Houston.
Bzdelik, a former Bullets assistant from 1988-94 and three-time college head coach, retired following the 2017-18 season. He returned to the Rockets in November following Houston’s slow start. The associate head coach is credited with guiding the team’s defensive improvement as the Rockets rose up the Western Conference standings.
The Houston Chronicle reported Bzdelik, whose contract expired after this season, remained uncommitted to returning. The Rockets announced Saturday they would not renew his deal.
The Wizards do not want a repeat of their defensive struggles. Only the Atlanta Hawks allowed more points per game than the 116.9 Washington surrendered last season. The Wizards ranked 28th in opponent field goal percentage (48.0) and 27th in 3-point shooting percentage (37.0).
It’s unclear how the Wizards fix those defensive concerns based solely on personnel. The current roster with five healthy players does not include any forwards or mobile big men. Point guard John Wall is expected to miss the majority of the upcoming season following February’s surgery for a ruptured Achilles. Wall, an erratic defensive presence in recent seasons, was previously selected to the NBA’s all-defensive team in 2015.
Coaching strategies could become the primary driver of change on the defensive end. The man who brought Brooks into the coaching fraternity would make for an obvious addition if both sides are interested.
"The accountability that [Jeff] taught me with the coaching staff and the players is second to none,” Brooks told the Chronicle in 2016. “I learned about work. I learned how to transfer my playing career into a coaching career with his help."
News of the next front office leader likely comes before coaching staff tweaks.
Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly was offered the same position with the Wizards Saturday after Denver granted Washington permission to meet. In the interim, the Wizards sent a contingent of scouting personnel along with Brooks to Chicago as the team conducted player interviews and watched scrimmages.
“Ted is going to make a decision and I trust that I going to be the best for the program moving forward,” Brooks said Thursday. “As of right now, (interim GM Tommy Sheppard) is doing a great job leading the group. We all feel comfortable with what’s going on. Hopefully, things work out and we move forward as an organization. We all have to get better, myself included.”
MORE WIZARDS NEWS: