Charles, Cloud called for team meeting to stress urgency of the season originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Optimism has surrounded the Washington Mystics to start the season knowing that, eventually, they'll get the ship pointed in the right direction. Still, that optimism was not reflected in the team's win-loss record heading into its contest with Minnesota on Tuesday night.
Sensing that each player was on their own island, Tina Charles and Natasha Cloud felt it was time to call a players-only team meeting less than a month into the season.
"We have a new team. We're trying to get this thing going, which we did tonight but this needs to be a player-run team," Cloud said following the team's win over the Lynx. "So for us it was we need to sit down, we need to talk about who we are, what's our identity, who we want to be, because this complacency thing and being patient is fine because we are learning things, but there needs to be a sense of urgency. And so for us, it was really just a hashing out like and in the most respectful way."
Prior to beating Minnesota, Washington sat at 2-5 just over a fifth of the way through the season. As things stood, the team was on the outside looking in of the eight-team playoffs. And while yes, things appeared to be turning around following a shootout with the title-contending Aces, there were some wins left on the table. With four of the Mystics' next five games coming against teams at or below .500, this stretch was going to be key in getting momentum.
What is hurting the Mystics right now is not star power, it is the lack of chemistry on the floor. There are only three active players on the roster that played on the 2019 championship team. Three others were involved in the rotation a year ago. The remaining five all are playing their first minutes for D.C. this season.
It will help when Elena Delle Donne comes around, but they cannot wait for that.
"It's new individuals here," Charles said. "And I feel it's actually something that we should have done probably before the first game, just to make sure that we knew what everyone's individual goals were, what our goals are collectively as a team and just to hear from everybody."
This season Charles is in the midst of an early MVP race. Through eight games she leads the league in scoring by more than three points at 25.9 points per game. Contributions have come from Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen, but they need more from the rest of the roster.
Outside of those three players, there have only been five instances where someone reached double-figures on offense.
"I just wanted to make sure there was a sense of urgency because I'm someone who's very intense, and I want to make sure that nobody is feeling relaxed around me or anything," Charles said. "We should not be comfortable, this is still a season we can get."
The team started 1-0 following the team meeting by beating the Lynx for their third win of the year. On top of having urgency, individual defense was another stressed element. Defensively, the Mystics shut down Minnesota's offense after it had exploded with a 100-point outing the game prior. The Lynx only shot 41% (27% from 3-point range) and had 21 turnovers.
With it, that's three straight 'positive' games in a row for Washington -- the first such stretch of the year -- following close but competitive losses to Las Vegas and Connecticut. Now, the hope is that a new collective sense of urgency can carry the team forward.
"It just really showed that everyone does care about the season. Everyone does believe that we can come out on top this season regardless of Elena and Emma (Meesseman) and Alysha Clark not being here, so it was really great that everyone is very optimistic and everyone is engaged with the season and we were all on the same page," Charles said.