Mystics ‘mini training camp’ off week begins with limited players

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Mystics ‘mini training camp’ off week begins with limited players originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Just two weeks into the WNBA season and the Mystics already have a week off.

After falling to the Connecticut Sun on the road on Friday, they have a full seven days before their next contest. It’s not normal and definitely not expected so early with the Olympic break on the horizon, but for Washington it is much needed in the young season.

Heading into the break, head coach Mike Thibault called it a “mini training camp.” It’s a chance for all the players who joined the team in the past two weeks to finally get in practice. But on day one of practice in the off week, it was similar to the initial training camp. Only seven rostered players were able to partake.

“I didn't like it when I saw it on the schedule, originally, that we have a week off,” Thibault said before Friday’s loss to Connecticut. “But we're going to need that for practice time with this group. We didn't anticipate Sydney (Wiese) coming in that late and Erica (McCall) coming back late from Europe, so we're going to actually have kind of almost like a little mini training camp [this] week to kind of get caught up on some things that we're just kind of putting together on the fly right now.”

There were several obstacles for the Mystics at the start of the season and the weeks of preparation leading up to it. The best player on the roster, Elena Delle Donne, was and remains sidelined as she works herself into form after a back procedure this offseason. Myisha Hines-Allen and McCall missed all of camp due to overseas obligations. Hines-Allen even missed the first three games. Kiara Leslie was a late arrival as well and the trade for Wiese happened two days before the season opener.

Missing so many key figures, there were only two players on the 2019 championship roster who were full participants at camp.

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So, with many of those players back with the Mystics, a week’s worth of uninterrupted practices should be a welcomed sight. With this week, the players believe they can establish their identity for the remainder of the year.

“This is a good opportunity for us to get into the gym and be able to work on us,” Theresa Plaisance said. “I think now that we have Myisha back and [McCall] and with [Wiese], all not having them in training camp, being able to have that group in practice and be able to play, we'll be able to build a lot more chemistry in this short period of time with the chemistry that we've already built up to this point and then moving forward to the next week and just getting repetitions like that. So it'll be a good opportunity for us to work on us.”

Working with only seven players isn’t quite what everyone had in mind. Delle Donne remains out for the foreseeable future. Wiese is out after an ankle sprain in the Mystics’ last game and may miss some games. Tina Charles, Ariel Atkins and Leslie all had the day off for maintenance to recover from nagging injuries. Upcoming practices, though, should welcome more players back into the fold.

Still, the vibe is positive even after their most recent loss dropping them to a 2-4 record on the year. The consensus from the Sun loss was that Washington had figured some things out. It was more of what the team wants to be. And that positive note is huge as the Mystics look to build up the team this week.

“It's important because we're building on things,” Atkins said. “I feel like in the beginning we were taking a step forward, a step back, a step forward then three steps back, I feel like right now we've taken a step and then we've taken another step. So, it's definitely important to stay positive to keep building on the things that we got better at tonight.”

Aside from the Olympic stretch (July 11-August 14), this will be the longest break of the season for Washington. There will be only two more times this season where there will be four or more off days in-between games.

When they return to the court, the WNBA's preseason favorite Las Vegas Aces will be the first test. The Mystics hope by then they will have built some of the chemistry that was missing in their first couple of games,

“I finally think we have like our final piece so we can like, of course, we have [Elena] coming in, but for now this is what we have,” McCall said last week. “So now we just kind of relax set in, this is who we have. We know we're an amazing group, we know we can be a phenomenal basketball team. It's just all about working those pieces together”