September 14: Alana Beard, Washington Mystics
Guard Alana Beard is the best player on one of the league's hottest team, which is a pretty big deal considering she is still just a rookie.

Just a week ago, the Mystics were four games under .500 and all but out of the playoff race. However, Washington has since won three games in a row and has climbed to within a game of the Eastern Conference leaders.

In a 67-63 win over the Sacramento Monarchs last Tuesday, Beard had 20 points, six assists and four steals. She followed that up with 26 points, five assists and seven rebounds in Thursday night's 71-59 win over the visiting New York Liberty. For her efforts, the recent Duke graduate was also named the WNBA Player of the Week.

Perhaps what has been most impressive about Beard is that she has stepped up her game when it was most needed -- after perennial MVP candidate Chamique Holdclaw left the lineup.

Instead of folding, Beard took Washington on her back and has led the Mystics to more home victories (11) than any other team in the Eastern Conference. If she keeps it up for another week, we just might see her for at least a few more games beyond this weekend.

Beard is the first person to win Player of the Week and the Dish and Assist Award in the same week.
Jesse D. Garrabrandt/NBAE/Getty Images
Last week's Dish & Assist winner: Tamika Catchings

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