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Bringing everyone back from a championship team is difficult, but the Mystics could defy the odds

Bringing everyone back from a championship team is difficult, but the Mystics could defy the odds

All good things must come to an end. 

Salary caps ensure that adage rings true for championship teams. Each year title-winning teams are forced to part ways with the very players that put them on top of the sports world. 

The Washington Nationals are a team that quickly faced that reality this year. On the day of their World Series championship parade, they were forced to make several contract decisions on stars that had just won them their first pennant. Less than a week after winning it all, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon were free agents and available for any team to sign.  

No title-touting team is immune.  But just as tenacious the Washington Mystics were on their warpath to a WNBA championship, so too is their ability to bring everyone for another crack at the title in 2020. 

There is the space for the Mystics to bring back each member of their championship team.

Last season Washington had one of the deepest teams in the WNBA. So deep that Emma Meesseman, the WNBA Finals MVP, primarily came off the bench when the squad was fully healthy. Depth extended past Meesseman too. Several of the team’s back-up players could easily be starters elsewhere in the league.

There were 12 players on the championship roster, eight are already under contract to return: Natasha Cloud, LaToya Sanders, Ariel Atkins, Aerial Powers, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Myisha Hines-Allen and Kiara Leslie. 

Assuming the salary cap goes up the same amount it did from 2018 to 2019, the cap will be roughly $1,014,900 in 2020. However, the WNBA and the players’ association are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. A new deal could completely flip the cap figures – and maximum contracts – as one of the bigger issues discussed is player pay. The rest of this post could be a moot point. 

But going off the $1,014,900 figure and the contract amounts on Spotrac.com combined with Tianna Hawkins’ and Powers' extensions, Washington has roughly $582,072 of their 2020 cap space remaining. Educated guesses would assume that there could be even more room to work with as the CBA gets developed. Bigger player salaries would mean bigger salary caps. Only four or five spots are remaining as rosters are required to have a minimum of 11 players, a maximum of 12.

Four members of the 2019 squad are set to enter free agency. This includes Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver and Meesseman. All three more than deserving of max contracts. 

Keep in mind that the WNBA’s free agency is less robust than the other major sports leagues in the country. Partly this is due to the max contract and salary cap system in place. In the NBA, at most teams could fit four maximum contract players – there are also supermax contracts that would fit less. Eight maximum contract players could fit on a WNBA roster to slide under the cap.

Of the three (Delle Donne, Toliver, Meesseman) it is difficult to imagine any of them playing anywhere else in the league.

Delle Donne finally won her elusive championship this year. She came to the Mystics from the Chicago Sky back in 2017 to be close to her family in Delaware. During the WNBA Finals this season she still stressed the importance of her proximity to her family. There is no reason to suggest that will change this offseason.

Toliver is an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards. Both basketball teams are owned under the same company, Monumental Sports and Entertainment. She could make the full jump into the coaching ranks after this season if she chose, but this season she displayed that there is a lot in her tank. 

Meesseman took a year off in 2018 and looks better than ever. Washington is the only WNBA franchise she has ever played for.

A combination of the three returning is not guaranteed but space is there. Three max contracts, at the estimated at $119,500 by the previous CBA, fit the salary constraints. 

That even leaves $63,572 for the final spot on the roster. A more than capable figure to account for the remaining members of the 2019 championship team in Kim Mestdagh. 

Head coach Mike Thibault, who is also the general manager, constructed the roster brilliantly to bring together the first championship for the franchise. Basically, everyone stayed from the runner-up team in 2018. Roster constraints won’t be the issue. Rather, convincing everyone to ‘Run it back’ for a second time will be the question. 

Throughout the 2019 season, the Mystics defied all standards set by previous WNBA teams. They have a chance to defy another standard set by championship teams this offseason. 


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NBA reportedly working on televising a H-O-R-S-E competition while players are in isolation

NBA reportedly working on televising a H-O-R-S-E competition while players are in isolation

While we wait for the 2019-20 NBA season to return from suspension, the league may have found another way to entertain us. 

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA is working on televising a H-O-R-S-E competition featuring several high-profile players, though they are unnamed as of now. 

In this case, players would shoot by themselves, presumably at their homes, and go shot-for-shot with other players remotely. The great thing about H-O-R-S-E is all you need to be able to do is shoot, leaving the door open for former players like Paul Pierce to get in on the fun. 

This wouldn't be the first time we've seen NBA players playing H-O-R-S-E on television. Back in 2010, Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo and Omri Casspi played each other in H-O-R-S-E as a part of All-Star weekend. As you'd expect, Durant won. 

This follows the NBA kickstarting the first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament Friday, where 16 NBA stars play each other in an NBA 2K20 tournament for charity. Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young and Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura headline the event that is expected to run until April 11. 

According to Woj, the details on the H-O-R-S-E competition are still being finalized with the league and ESPN, who'd ultimately air the event. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.


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Kobe Bryant posthumously highlights loaded 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class

Kobe Bryant posthumously highlights loaded 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class

Kobe Bryant’s resume has yet another entry to prove his greatness: He’s now, officially, a Hall of Famer.

And he’s got plenty of elite company in the 2020 class, one that may be as glitzy as any.

Bryant and fellow NBA greats Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett headlined a nine-person group announced Saturday as this year’s class of enshrinees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

They all got into the Hall in their first year of eligibility, as did WNBA great Tamika Catchings. Two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich finally got his call, as did longtime Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, 1,000-game winner Barbara Stevens of Bentley and three-time Final Four coach Eddie Sutton.

They were the eight finalists who were announced in February, and the panel of 24 voters who were tasked to decide who merited selection wound up choosing them all. Also headed to the Hall this year: former FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann, selected as a direct-elect by the international committee.

“He was the head of FIBA and this was a way to honor him,” Hall of Fame Chairman and enshrinee Jerry Colangelo said. “It was a special thing done through that committee.”

Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, about three weeks before the Hall of Fame said -- as if there was going to be any doubt -- that he was a finalist. Duncan and Garnett were also widely perceived to be locks to be part of this class; they were both 15-time NBA All-Stars, and Bryant was an 18-time selection.

Bryant's death has been part of a jarring start of the year for basketball: Commissioner Emeritus David Stern died on Jan. 1, Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among nine who died in the crash in late January, and the NBA shut down March 11 as the coronavirus pandemic began to grip the U.S.

“Obviously, we wish that he was here with us to celebrate," Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's wife, said on the ESPN broadcast of the class announcement. “But it’s definitely the peak of his NBA career and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a steppingstone to be here. So we’re incredibly proud of him."

Bryant was also a five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, just as Duncan was with the San Antonio Spurs.

“This is an incredibly special class, for many reasons,” Colangelo said.

Garnett is the only player in NBA history with at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 blocks and 1,500 steals. He also was part of Boston's 2008 NBA title.

“This is the culmination," Garnett said. “All those hours ... this is what you do it for, right here. To be able to be called ‘Hall of Famer' is everything."

Catchings was a 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist. Tomjanovich, who had overwhelming support from NBA peers who couldn’t understand why it took so long for his selection, was a five-time All-Star as a player, guided Houston to back-to-back titles and took the 2000 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal.

Mulkey has three NCAA titles as a coach, won two others as a player and had Baylor in position to vie for another championship this season had the global coronavirus pandemic not forced the shutdown of virtually every sport around the globe. Stevens has coached for 43 years and is a five-time Division II coach of the year. Sutton won more than 800 games in nearly four decades, and Baumann was one of the most powerful voices in international basketball until his death in 2018.

The enshrinement ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts, is scheduled for Aug. 29. Should the pandemic force a delay, there is a tentative plan for an October ceremony as well.

For this year, largely because of the star power of this class, the Hall chose to enact a one-year suspension of direct elections from the Veteran’s, Women’s Veteran’s, Early African-American Pioneers and Contributors categories.

With Bryant, Duncan and Garnett as perhaps the top NBA trio to ever enter simultaneously, the Hall wanted to make sure that no enshrinee would be overlooked.

“We didn’t need to water it down,” Colangelo said. “Next year is another year for many.”

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.