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Mystics still searching for their power

The Washington Mystics are the WNBA's most popular team, if attendance is the measuring stick. But the Mystics have been among the biggest underachievers since they entered the WNBA as an expansion team in 1998.

The roster has been almost completely remade since that first season. Only Nikki McCray and Murriel Page remain on the team. And there have been four coaches, a feat matched only in Los Angeles where the Sparks have been around for one more season.

Last season, the Mystics made the playoffs with a 14-18 record. But that was more a testament to the weakness of the Eastern Conference than to the team's success.

While there's still plenty of basketball to be played, the early returns show that new coach Tom Maher isn't having much success either. The Mystics are 2-5 with four straight losses heading in to Thursday night's home game against Miami. The game against the Sol opens a stretch of five games in eight days.

After Saturday's loss in New York, Maher said he was considering lineup changes. He didn't make them and the Mystics lost in Cleveland the next day, their fourth defeat in a row.

The problems? Where to begin? Statistically, Washington is second-to-last in the league in scoring, averaging 62.8 points a game. They are being out-rebounded by an average of 3.7 a game, and only Portland has a higher negative margin. The Mystics have yet to win on the road.

Chamique Holdsclaw, the future of this franchise, is having a good season, leading the team in scoring at 17.4 points a game. McCray, the two-time Olympian around whom this team was built, is assuming a lessening role. She is averaging 22.3 minutes per game and 9.1 points, well off her career WNBA average of 16.8 points per game.

It is Vicky Bullet, a 33-year veteran, and new point guard Annie Burgess, who lead the team in minutes played. Post Tausha Mills is battling through an ankle injury, Cass Bauer-Bilodeau just came off the injured list and Page is still seeking a consistent level of play.

Clearly, there are chemistry issues here. The combination of McCray and Holdsclaw doesn't work for some reason. Perhaps the players have dealt with frustration for so long they don't know how to build up enough momentum for success.


Rookie or not?
There's a nice little competition going for WNBA Rookie of the Year and it happens to be going on in Seattle between Lauren Jackson and Sameka Randall.

Heading into this week, Jackson ranked 11th in the league in scoring at 15.9 points a game, while Randall was at 12.5 points a game.

It's tough to consider Jackson a true rookie considering her hefty resume of international and Olympic experience, but there's not doubt that Randall has more than surpassed expectations for a player that was picked in the second round.

Seattle coach Lin Dunn held her breath, waiting to see if Randall would be taken on draft day because she knew the Tennessee guard was better than her statistics as a senior (10.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg) indicated. She was so confident in Randall's abilities she was willing to deal Edna Campbell, her leading scorer from last season, to Sacramento.

Randall is proving her correct. Jackson's merely doing what's expected. It will be interesting to see which counts for more at season's end.

Around the league
The Houston Comets manage to defy logic, but it's nature that gets 'em. Because of damage fromTropical Storm Allison last week, the Comets' schedule was completely disrupted. They will finally play a game on Thursday night against Los Angeles, 12 days since playing their last game. The 5-1 Comets will have to play five games in eight days to make up time. Besides practicing, the Comets kept busy this week by delivering food, clothing, baby items and supplies to flooded-out residents of the Houston area ... If Brandy Reed does not return to the Phoenix Mercury by the July 2 deadline that the team has set for resolution of their disciplinary situation, the Mercury will retain her rights by leaving her on unpaid suspension. Option two is trading her, but there have got to be plenty leery general managers out there given Reed's checkered history ... Lots of injury news from Minnesota. Point guard Kristi Harrower has gone home to Australia to to have surgery and rehabilitation on her injured ACL. Guard Betty Lennox has a hip injury and could be out as long as a month. As a result, Rookie Svetlana Abrosimova could play as soon as Monday night in a nationally televised game against Washington. The former Connecticut star has yet to play because of a foot injury that cut short her senior season. Her time on the floor will be limited for most of the rest of the season.

Michelle Smith of the San Francisco Chronicle is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.