Mystics

Why new Mystic Essence Carson chose to play in the WNBA this season over sitting out for social justice

Why new Mystic Essence Carson chose to play in the WNBA this season over sitting out for social justice

Essence Carson has had quite a career as a basketball player. But many know her for the role she played in the infamous Don Imus controversy in 2007.

So when the newly signed Washington Mystic had to make the choice whether to compete or not for this upcoming season (while many other WNBA stars opted out to fight for social justice), it is noteworthy that she chose to play. 

"I did my protests," Carson said in a Zoom meeting with reporters on Saturday. "This wasn't my first round of protests. What I like to tell people is that 'I've been Black all my life.' So, the experience isn't anything that's new, speaking up for myself and for my community. It's nothing new. It's been a daily thing for me for a long time."

She was the captain of the Rutgers women’s basketball team when Imus made his inappropriate comments. Quickly, Carson became the focal point of interviews and media conversations in the press that followed.

The way she handled the aftermath of Imus' remarks drew attention from many. Carson was well-spoken beyond her years and no 20-somethings probably could have managed the situation better. Since then, Carson has been regarded as a figure in the fight against racism.

RELATED: MIKE THIBAULT'S VIEW ON HANDLING ISSUES IN THE BUBBLE

That doesn't mean, though, that Carson's calm but powerful voice will be silenced now that she is in the WNBA's bubble in Bradenton, Fla.

Earlier in July the WNBA dedicated the 2020 season to social justice and launched The Justice Movement and created the WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council. This was in response to numerous players who called for action following the death of George Floyd and the protests across the country.

This season there will be virtual roundtables, player-produced podcasts, dedication to violence victims on jerseys and 'Black Lives Matter' text featured prominently on the court. In a statement, the WNBA made a powerful stance committing to "drive impactful, measurable and meaningful change."

This response from the league is what swayed the 33-year-old. Being able to use her voice in a unique way within the bubble could open up to new creative ways to be an activist in the WNBA.

"Being able to get my message across, convey that message in a way that I like to, it doesn't necessarily always require me to be there front and center," Carson said. "So, I just wanted to be a little innovative, see how innovative I can be within this bubble with using my voice in different ways than I possibly have used it in the past, which would be more hands-on the more in-person approach.

"So yeah, you can be creative. You have to be. And as a Black community that I feel like that's what we do best, right we win when we've been given so little throughout our existence, we always found, or find ways to make things happen, make something out of nothing. That is a talent. That is, you know, we've been blessed with that ability."

After playing on a one-year deal with the Phoenix Mercury last season, Carson was not on a roster when the WNBA announced its plan to hold a season. The Mystics signed the guard/ forward after Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders announced they would not play in 2020. 

She admits that it took some patience to get through the uncertainty of the season and not being with a team. Had Washington not shown interest, there's a chance she would not have gotten the opportunity to be in the unique spot where the season focuses on race.

But just because she chose to play doesn't mean that it was wrong for others to opt-out. She's fighting her fight and wants others to do the same.

"I don't want anyone to believe that or feel that, because they don't fight the fight in a way that their neighbor may fight the fight that their role isn't important," Carson said. "You fight the fight the way you choose to fight, just fight the fight. And so the bubble won't silence me in that regard"

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Emma Meesseman finally breaks through shooting slump, but offense goes cold in loss to Aces

Emma Meesseman finally breaks through shooting slump, but offense goes cold in loss to Aces

Finally, the 2020 WNBA season got to see some form of "Playoff Emma." Wednesday night, it was Emma Meesseman’s turn to light up the scoreboard against the Las Vegas Aces. But, her effort and 24 points was for naught. The rest of the Washington Mystics' offense went ice cold in an 83-77 loss in Bradenton, Fla.  

Meesseman expressed confidence, was aggressive and showed spurts that were familiar of her incredible WNBA Finals performance a year ago. Something that, frankly, has been noticeably absent from the Mystics' first four games of the season. Her 24 points came on a 10-for-23 shooting night, during which she made her first three 3-pointers of the season. She also made it a double-double with 13 rebounds to match her career high.

But the moment head coach Mike Thibault took Meesseman off the floor, the team struggled. Without Meesseman, the team was minus-nine. In fact, the Mystics struggled even when she was on it (minus Myisha Hines-Allen's 18 points). 

Take away those two and the rest of the team mustered 35 points a mere 35% shooting night and 22% clip from behind the arc. Washington also only grabbed seven rebounds outside of that duo.

"We got beat by a good team. We didn't execute as well. The biggest difference to me is pretty obvious, 30-11 free throw attempts," Thibault said postgame. 

RELATED: ESSENCE CARSON CALLS ON BUBBLE TO 'SAY HER NAME'

The Aces play a physical brand of basketball. It tripped the Mystics up once in the postseason a year ago in a pretty glaring fashion. This time it did so again in more ways than just a free throw discrepancy. 

After a hot first quarter from Meesseman, where she scored half of her point total, Las Vegas switched up its defensive approach. From that point, it was rare for Washington to not receive full-court pressure, even in transition. That style shut down the Mystics' fastbreak game and certainly their halfcourt offense. Culminating in the final quarter, Washington only produced 18 points as the game slipped away.

Hines-Allen and Meesseman were ultimately the only two able to slice through the Aces' defense. For Hines-Allen it was her fourth game with 15 or more points on the season. For Meesseman it was her first. 

"I'm happy she was aggressive and looking to shoot. Vegas seems to bring out the best in her," Thibault said. "It was good to see her be aggressive, we're going to need that and we're just figuring out things as we go."

Last year’s WNBA Finals MVP struggled, by her standards, in the first four games of the season. Teams double-teamed her, she struggled to find her shot and she often passed up scoring opportunities for her teammates. She was only averaging 11.3 points, was shooting 44% from the floor and had yet to make a 3-pointer.

Expectations were high for Meesseman entering the year. Being the biggest star remaining on a shorthanded Washington roster put the target on her after a career-year in 2019.  

Despite her struggles shooting, she had found ways to have an impact on the game. Entering Wednesday’s contest with 5.3 assists a night, she had the league’s fifth-best mark. An influence that Thibault was happy to see as he anticipated Meesseman would generate a lot of attention. Still, after the team’s first loss, he just wanted to see her shoot more

"Emma's the type of player if she's not making shots, she gets down on herself," Leilani Mitchell said postgame. "We just all happen to really around each other. It happens to people and I was super proud of her today for being aggressive and assertive out there."

That breakthrough comes in Washington's second loss of the season, moving the team to 3-2. A once potent offense has struggled in back-to-back games in two different ways. Good news is Wednesday night the Mystics finally got back to as much of full strength as they can be with Tianna Hawkins returning to the lineup. A back injury in the opening game sidelined her and reduced the 10-person roster to nine. 

Definitely a welcomed relief because a two-game losing streak makes up for one-ninth of the season. 

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How to watch Mystics vs. Las Vegas Aces

How to watch Mystics vs. Las Vegas Aces

After dropping their first game of the season to the Chicago Sky Saturday, expect for a well-rested Washington Mystics (3-1) team to come out firing in Wednesday's matchup with the Las Vegas Aces (2-2).

The defending champions currently lead the WNBA in 3-point shooting at 40.6 percent, and they're third in the league in free-throw shooting at 84.3 percent. 

Las Vegas has gotten off to a middle-of-the-pack start, alternating wins and losses in their first four matchups. A positive to note, however, is that they're outrebounding their opponents by 10 rebounds each game and that's a testament to the glass dominance of F A’ja Wilson who currently sits at fifth in the WNBA in boards (9.5).

MYSTICS VS. ACES: HOW TO WATCH

What: WNBA 2020 regular season

Where: IMG Academy, Bradenton, FL

Who: Washington Mystics vs. Las Vegas Aces

When: Wednesday, August 5, 2020 at 8:00 PM ET

TV Channel: Mystics vs. Aces will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder

Live Stream: You can live stream Mystics vs. Aces on NBC Sports Washington live stream page or on the NBC Sports App

MYSTICS VS. ACES: TV SCHEDULE

8:00 PM WNBA Basketball: Mystics vs. Aces LIVE

MYSTICS VS. ACES: WHAT TO WATCH

MYSTICS VS. ACES: PLAYERS TO WATCH

Mystics G, Ariel Atkins (18.8 ppg, 2.0 apg, 1.8 rpg): Sitting at fourth in the WNBA in scoring, Ariel Atkins is at the top of every opposing coach's whiteboard heading into the game. Atkins, who turned 24 on July 30th, will be looking to build upon a career performance she had against the Connecticut Sun in which she drilled five three-pointers on 10 attempts. 

Aces F, A’ja Wilson (19.8 ppg, 2.5 apg, 9.5 rpg): A’ja Wilson has certainly lived up to the hype early on in her career and this season is no different. Wilson is just shy of averaging a double-double with 19.8 points and 9.5 rebounds. In the team's most recent victory over the Dallas Wings, she tallied 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists while going 5-of-5 from the free-throw line. 

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