2011 Off-Season Outlook
While most WNBA teams have a few months breather in between the end of the season and the start of free agency, the Washington Mystics have already seen a multitude of changes to the organization. The biggest change occurred in the front office as Trudi Lacey took over as GM/Head Coach on November 22nd. Following a season where she was assistant coach and director of basketball operations, Lacey now takes over the wheel with the hopes of transforming last season's regular season success into playoff achievement.
"A year ago I had a completely different mindset," said Lacey. "I really didn’t imagine myself in this position. I have really enjoyed it...we have great people and great players on our team and my objective is to compliment that in every way. It’s interesting, it’s like putting a puzzle together, and you just put together one piece at a time."
In addition to a new head coach comes the return of two very important figures. After missing the entire 2010 season due to an ankle injury, Alana Beard is rehabbing and it looks like she should be ready to go come training camp in May.
The second figure was the Mystics first big free agent re-signing of the off-season, when the team re-signed assistant coach Marianne Stanley. Stanley brings continuity from the 2010 team, the most successful team in franchise history. While many fans may focus on the impending free agency, Lacey was overjoyed when the team was able to re-sign Stanley.
"It’s like having a security blanket," said Lacey. "I have so much respect for her knowledge of the game and value her opinion on players. She knows the style I want to play and I really cannot say enough about her. I am really, really pleased she is coming back."
Taking Care of Home
On January 15th, the WNBA free agency period will begin, and for Lacey and the Mystics the goal is simple: take care of home. When asked to discuss her free agent strategy, Lacey was short and to the point, the team’s first two priorities are to re-sign Lindsey Harding and Katie Smith.
“We want those guys back,” said Lacey. “So strategically it is to take care of home first. To have our core group return and then add the pieces to that will benefit us the most. But I think having that core group is important and then after that we will complete the puzzle. “
Last season, Harding and Smith were constants starting back court, with Harding starting every game at point guard and Smith playing and starting in all but one game at shooting guard.
The good news for the Mystics, is that while their backcourt duo are both free agents, Harding is restricted, which means the team has the right to match any offer made to her which Lacey plans on doing.
With Harding back in the fold, the team will turn its attention to Smith, a 12-year WNBA veteran who brings championship credentials, locker room leadership and a lethal three-point shooting stroke.
At The Center Of It All
While the focus at the beginning of the off-season will be to take care of home, the next priority for Lacey is to add a post presence.
Although the team has a clear understanding of the first two targets, when it comes to the center position it becomes a little tougher to find a player that will fit into Lacey’s up-tempo style.
"Obviously I would like to have a post player that can run the floor, rebound well, and who has a presence inside both offensively and defensively,” said Lacey. “It changes some because everybody doesn’t fit into that mode, so we will make those qualities a priority when looking for a post player."
This is where the Mystics may have to get more creative and will look at all options including free agency, trades or the draft in order to secure a post player to fit their system.
2011 Lineup ProjectionsWith uncertainty at a few key positions heading into free agency, it is extremely hard to project how the Mystics will look on June 4th against the Sun. However, one thing the team has going for them is depth. At this point, Lacey is non-committal regarding her potential starting rotation, but no matter what the team does regarding free agency she is looking forward to having game-changing players at her disposal.
"Here is the nice thing; there are several different starting lineups that we could have," said Lacey. "So it can't really be set in stone. Lindsey has been a starter, when Alana was healthy she is a starter." Lacey smiles, a plan already working in her head. "So there are several way we could go."