The phoenixmercury still without counting Brittney Grinerwho has been detained in Russia since February, but while the star center remains on their minds, they also know they have to get on with their preparation for the upcoming season of the WNBA.
“It’s tough. We’re all worried about her,” the Mercury’s new coach said Monday. vanessa nygaard, while training camp continued. “It’s something we’re thinking about, and praying to make sure he’s safe and that he gets home quickly.”
Griner was detained at a Moscow airport on February 17 after Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges alleged to contain cannabis-derived oil, which could carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. . Russian media reported in March that Griner’s detention was extended until at least May 19.
The 26th season of the WNBA begins on May 6.
“We are confident that everything possible is being done to ensure that he can return as quickly as possible, that everyone is working behind the scenes to make that happen,” Nygaard said. “I definitely wake up sometimes in the middle of the night worried about BG. The only thing we can do is keep doing what we’re doing.”
Nygaard was hired in January to replace sandy brondellowho in December was fired by the team after eight seasons (Brondello was later hired to coach the new york liberty). Phoenix reached the WNBA Finals last season but fell 3-1 in a best-of-five series to the chicago sky.
“Obviously the way last year ended is still fresh in our minds,” said the Mercury star, Diana Taurasi. “It’s something we think about, those little things in Game 4 that slipped are a constant reminder. So it’s good to keep that in mind. I think there’s a lot of excitement in the building.”
Griner, the first pick in the 2013 draft, has long praised Taurasi, the Mercury’s first pick in 2004, for his leadership and friendship. Taurasi didn’t say much about Griner on Monday, which might have been by design; many close to Griner think that the less publicity given to his situation, the better the outcome in Russia.
“It’s a very delicate situation,” said Taurasi, who played abroad early in his career. “I spent 10 years [en Rusia]so I know how things work there.
“It’s a dangerous world wherever you go. It could change the perspective of different [jugadoras de la WNBA] about going abroad. That’s a personal choice that people will have to make.”
The escort of the Mercury, Sophie CunninghamHe added, “We have to keep praying for her. We hope she’s okay. And that’s all we know. You know as much as we do. No one wants to be in her situation; we miss her like crazy.”
Griner was the second leading scorer (20.5 points per game) in the WNBA last year behind fellow center Tina Charles (23.4), who was with the Washington Mystics. Charles came to Phoenix as a free agent this offseason and will now play an even bigger role than expected with Griner out.
Like Taurasi and Griner, Charles was also the first pick in the draft (2010).
“I’ve known Tina for a long time,” Taurasi said of the fellow UConn graduate. “Obviously we’ve played USA Basketball together, played overseas together. She just brings a dynamic that we haven’t had in the post where she can stretch the defense. So I’m excited to be on the floor with her and get that synergy going.” .
As for her own decision to return this season at age 40, Taurasi said she’s still excited about her work.
“I just try to prepare the best way I can during the offseason and go from there,” he said. “I still have this competitive bug. I still love playing basketball. Things change as you get older, the work you have to do gets harder.”
Nygaard said that while not having Griner will be tough, the Mercury is up for it.
“It’s not like we found out yesterday,” Nygaard said. “So, as a coaching staff, we’ve adapted — knowing that she wouldn’t be here at least for the beginning of the season — to change what we do offensively and defensively a little bit. And we’ll be ready when she comes back. really what we’re focused on.”
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Mercury thinks of Griner when getting ready for season