The Washington Mystics had media yesterday in the practice arena at Capital One Arena. There were several themes that were consistent no matter who was addressing the media. One of which, they're going to miss Emma Meesseman, but feel confident in the pieces on the roster that can make up for that lost production. This group just seemed much more comfortable as a whole, the family vibe that was talked about at the start of last season was clearly evident and didn't need to be addressed at all. Another was the respect for the youngsters on the roster, both Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen's names were brought up when vets were asked about their impressions of the younger players. Monique Currie went as far to call Atkins "pro ready." The other was the noticeable change in they physique of Tianna Hawkins, several of her teammates, nearly all of them raved about the work she put in this offseason. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt shed a bit more light on Hawkins offseason workout as they were part of a group of players that stayed in the area and worked out this offseason. TRP expects the work Hawkins put in to pay off on the court this season. That said, below are a few thoughts and/or observations from media day.
Conditioning. Several players mentioned it during their conversations with the media and it was quite evident to the naked eye as well. Coach Thibault made a point of it as well, this team is coming into the year ahead of schedule in this regard. It also sheds a bit of light as to just how they're going to deal with Emma's absence. They're going to push the pace even more than last year, with Delle Donne moving back to the four(power forward) from the three last season (small forward), it's going to give her more space to operate.
Three ball. Washington was at or near the top of the league in three point attempts last season, but near the bottom in makes. Several players shared that they've been expected to take the NBA range three in practice as the WNBA three point line hasn't been put on the practice court. Coach Thibault also let them know that three point shots from WNBA range only count as twos. TRP who hasn't been known to take many three pointers in her career, talked about how she's been asked to take that step back on long twos and take the three. She does a bit of everything offensively, but last season she'd regularly pass up an open three in favor of putting the ball on the floor and attacking the basket (which worked out more often than not).
Versatility. This isn't new for this team, but they've continued to add to this philosophy. This is also one of the ways they plan to make up for Meesseman's absence. Coach Thibault said there may be just a "couple" of roster spots open or to be fought for, but it's clear that's going to play a part in it. Of the players expected to make the roster, most of their bigs can slide between the three and the five (small forward to center). The only true center as of now is Krystal Thomas. Washington will have the ability to play small ball in a variety of ways and their forwards ability to stretch the floor is always going to help create space on the offensive end. Ruffin-Pratt's comments about Hawkins working on her ball handling is key, Tianna is one of the better shooters on the team. If she's able to put the ball on the floor, she may be able to play some 3 in certain lineups, but it gives her an added dimension whether she's at the four or five because she has to be honored from distance.