There is no longer a clear-cut best player on the Washington Mystics.
Crystal Langhorne was that player for the past three seasons, a stretch during which she led the team in scoring and rebounding each year. She was even named to the All-WNBA second team in 2010, becoming just the third player to receive that honor for a Mystic team that has never had a first team member.
Langhorne is also the only player on the current Mystics roster, other than the rookies, who has played for only one team her entire WNBA career. Monique Currie and Matee Ajavon come close, but Currie played her rookie year in Charlotte and two games of her sophomore campaign in Chicago while Ajavon was a rookie in Houston.
Langhorne goes back even further in the D.C. area if you count her four years in college at the University of Maryland, where she still holds the all-time records for points and rebounds.
It is for these reasons that Crystal is the final player from the starting lineup to be announced before home games begin. And they are the same reasons it is still her face on the side of the Verizon Center alongside John Wall’s, her counterpart on the Wizards. And maybe they are part of what influenced Mike Thibault to keep Langhorne in D.C. – so that she could be a part of bringing a winning culture back to the city where her career began.
But Thibault wasn’t about to let her do it on her own – he knew she needed a great team around her.
Enter Ivory Latta – the Mystics’ current leading scorer in 2013 and the greatest gift Mike Thibault has given to Mystics fans so far.
Latta has never been on an all-WNBA team and is averaging about three points less than Crystal for her career. But she had her best scoring season a year ago in Tulsa with 14.3 points per game and she was No. 1 on Thibault’s wish list when he arrived in Washington.
Well Latta has made Thibault look like a genius by bringing an excitement that the Mystics had been lacking during their 5-29 campaign last year. Through 11 games this year, the team has already matched that win total and they have done it with Ivory Latta as their best player. But Langhorne has had her moments where she has had to pick up the slack for a struggling Latta. During the next two-thirds of the season, either one of them could end up being the best player on the team. And the Mystics are going to need both of them playing well at the same time if they want to compete with the best teams in the WNBA.
Despite being only 6-2, Langhorne is one of the best inside scorers in the game. Her 56.1 percent shooting from the field is third in the WNBA right now, and as Diana Taurasi put it: “on the block, she probably has the best moves in the league hands down.” Crystal has an unorthodox shooting motion, but has a good mid-range game as well.
Latta, on the other hand, stands at 5-6 and is known for her high-energy personality on and off the court. She plays up-tempo and can shoot the floaters and the threes. Right now she is shooting 48.8 percent from beyond the arc, with about two makes a game.
Latta and Langhorne have completely different styles both on and off the court. Langhorne has said: “me and Ivory are totally different people,” describing herself as “chill” and Latta as “high-energy.” But the Mystic locker room as a whole seems to be getting along great this year and that starts with the leadership of Latta and Langhorne at the top.
Actually Ivory and Crystal are probably gelling better off the court than they are on the court right now. On the Mystics’ one road trip so far this season, the duo of stars couldn’t put together solid performances on the same night and the Mystics lost all three games. Latta and Langhorne have only scored in double figures in the same game about half of the time and their best performance together remains the first game of the season.
Of course, Currie and Ajavon have been doing some significant scoring to help the team as well and just because they aren’t always first and second in scoring doesn’t mean that Latta and Langhorne aren’t playing well together. The impotant thing is that in the early going this season they’ve shown the ability to make adjustments to help each other out.
In the team’s home opener against the Dream, Langhorne was held to four points in the first half but scored 10 points in the third quarter alone to help cut Atlanta’s lead from 13 to six. Here’s what Latta, who assisted four of Langhorne’s five baskets in that quarter, had to say after eventually losing on June 2:
“There’s great chemistry…At the beginning of the second half, I looked at [Crystal] and said ‘we got to get you going – some way or another I got to find a way to get you the ball.’ And when we did that, everything started moving, other people started scoring and she started getting her jump shots from where she usually makes them. And I don’t mind passing the ball if I have to, just to keep everybody involved.”
– Ivory Latta
Based on early returns announced on Tuesday, Ivory has 6,772 All-Star Game votes (third among Eastern Conference backcourt players) and Crystal has 1,798 (tenth among Eastern Conference frontcourt players).