Itís not often that a team that starts the season with an 0-8 record is optimistic at the All-Star break. However, after enduring its worst start in franchise history, the Washington Mystics have rebounded by going 7-4 heading into the break and stand just one and a half games out of the playoffs as the second half of the season is about to get underway. All-Stars Alana Beard and DeLisha Milton-Jones have been key to the Mystics revival. Beard, who leads the team and is sixth in the league in scoring at 18.6 points per game, was voted into the All-Star game as a reserve by the Eastern Conference coaches for the third consecutive year.
After attending All-Star games in Connecticut and New York City the past two years, Beard is happy to have the festivities taking place in Washington, D.C. this year. WNBA.comís Brian Martin spoke with Beard to discuss hosting this yearís All-Star game, the Eastern Conference trying to start an All-Star winning streak, and the Mysticsí turnaround to get back into the playoff picture.
Q. This is your third straight All-Star Game and each time youíve been voted in by the coaches, what does that mean to you to have the coaches vote you in each year?
BEARD: "I look at it as a true testament to my game and the coaches obviously see that Iíve improved something in my game every year and that Iím doing positive things for my team. For me to be voted in by the coaches is a privilege because they know the game better than anyone."
Q. Do you have any family coming to the game and staying with you?
BEARD: "Itís just my sister and my niece that are coming. Itís kind of hard to bring family in because weíre so busy."
Q. So what hosting duties do you have? Is the team throwing any parties?
BEARD: "Weíre going to throw a party after the game. It will probably start around 10, just to give the players something to do. Several of our teammates Nakia Sanford, DeLisha Milton-Jones, Nikki Teasley and I have gotten together to do the party."
Q. D.C. is your WNBA city, so what recommendations would you make for places to see, restaurants to eat at, clubs to go to?
BEARD: "Around the arena, one of my favorites is Rosa Mexicana. Lauriol Plaza is another good one, Iím really big on Mexican food. And Iíd have to say Georgia Brown's as well."
Q. The East won for its first time last year ... can you get a streak started?
BEARD: "Hopefully we can keep it going. I think we have a good group of girls on the East squad."
Q. How do you think the East matches up with the West?
BEARD: "I think we match up pretty well. Iím not the one to talk trash, but Iím a firm believer that if youíve got Tamika Catchings, youíve got a win. So Iím good to go."
Q. What are your thoughts about playing for Bill Laimbeer?
BEARD: "Iím excited. You hear a lot of stories about him, but I think heís a good guy, I think heís funny. I always said I wouldnít mind playing for him so this is my chance."
Q. What are you looking forward to most at this all star game?
BEARD: "Just playing in front of my hometown fans because I think we have the best fans in the league. They continued to support us through all of the turmoil that weíve gone through this year and they are always there. So it definitely has to be playing in front of our fans."
Q. Any inspiration to go for the MVP this year?
BEARD: "Weíll see, you never know how things are going to turn out. Iím going to have fun and Iím going to play the game like I know how and weíll see what happens."
Q. I know All-Star is a busy weekend... is there part of you that wouldn't mind just having the long weekend off to relax?
BEARD: "Not at all. No part of me wants to have a long weekend at All-Star. Itís great publicity for the league, so anything I can do to get the leagueís name out there Iím happy to do."
Q. How is the shoulder feeling? Will you wear the shoulder sleeve the rest of the season?
BEARD: "I definitely have my good days and bad days with it. Iím going to keep getting treatment for it. Iím actually going for treatment in a few minutes. Iím going to keep working through it and the only way to get through it is to shoot, so weíll see."
Q. Letís talk about the season for a minute, the team got off to the slow start, but has now won seven out of 10 games and you're only one game out of playoffs. Can you describe the roller coaster ride the first half of the season has been for this team?
BEARD: (Surprised) "We are only one game out of the playoffs?"
Q. Yes. You guys are one game behind the Sun.*
BEARD: "Impressive. Iím excited. Itís been hard. Itís probably been the most frustrating time Iíve ever had basketball-wise. But Iím just so proud of my teammates. Iím so proud of these women because weíve continued to stay together off the court. I think the fact that we have such a tight knit off the court really helped us on the court and now we have the continuity going and thatís all you need. Once you get the continuity going on the court, then youíre good to go."
Q. How about playing for Tree Rollins? How has that been for you?
BEARD: "I love it. I love it. Tree is a great guy as well as a great coach. Heís been on the NBA side and he knows the game and he knows what players want and how players want to play. He gives us a structure and allows us go out and play the game ourselves. I really love his philosophy."
Q. What does it mean to have a teammate with you on the All-Star team?
BEARD: "Iím so excited. Other than not having to pack and travel, Iíve always said that Iím really excited about having a teammate on the team in DeLisha so I donít feel as lonely. Every other all-star game Iíve gone to I just felt like everyone else had their teammate there and now I have my teammate with me so Iím good."
* Editors note: The standings have changed since the time of this interview. At the time of the interview, the Mystics were one game behind the Connecticut Sun. The Mystics are now one and a half games behind the Sun after the Connecticut's win over Sacramento on Thursday night.
Washington Mystics guard Alana Beard is heading to her third consecutive All-Star game.
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