The Phoenix Mercury look to bounce back from their game 1 defeat in San Antonio with a victory over the Silver Stars tonight. While the team is confident that they can win the next two games at home and advance to the conference finals, there's also no denying the fact that this could be the last Mercury game of the season.
People like me think about that. People like Ann Meyers Drysdale and Cappie Pondexter are winners and go into any situation confident they will prevail.
But if this should be the team's final game of the season than the question of next year's roster is immediately looming.
Cappie is a restricted free agent will certainly get offers from other teams. The "restricted" part means that Ann and the Mercury can match any qualifying offer made by another team once the free agency period begins on December 15th. While it might seem like a forgone conclusion that the Mercury would match even a max offer for Cappie, which would be $101,500 per the CBA, the team also has several other free agents to consider.
The salary cap for next season is set at $827,000 but GM Ann Meyers Drysdale said that her preference is to stay below that to allow some flexibility for injuries or other opportunities that might come along. That leaves the Mercury targeting somewhere between the mandatory minimum salary of $716,400 and about $775,000 to spend on next season's roster.
Under contract for 2010 is Diana Tuarasi who has one year left on her deal and then Tangela Smith, Nicole Ohlde, Kelly Mazzante and DeWanna Bonner who will be on the second year of her rookie scale contract.
Free agents include three key players: point guard Temeka Johnson and forwards Le'Coe Willingham and Penny Taylor. The team also holds the rights to reserves Ketia Swanier and Brooke Smith.
Ann understandably did not want to speculate at this point what the team might do in the way of resigning current players, targeting other free agents or pursuing trades.
Right now, the entire team is only focused on winning two games at home and continuing its quest for another WNBA championship. But if the off season begins sooner than planned the team will have to start addressing some big questions for next year.
Shoot around notes and quotes:
- Both the Mercury and Silver Stars held their normal pregame shoot around at the US Airways center this morning with the Mercury going first
- The Mercury seemed loose and ready for tonight's game but this team always seems loose and ready which didn't translate into focused and energetic Thursday night in San Antonio
- Both Tangela Smith and Bridget Pettis hit half court shots at the end of practice although there was a heated dispute if Bridget's foot was on the line
- Tangela Smith jammed a finger in Thursday's game which is being called a "subluxation" which isn't serious. She will play
- The Mercury have no other injuries to report
- DeWanna Bonner may have bumped knees and experienced temporary and normal pain during the game but is fine
- Diana Tuarasi continues to be banged up with both elbow and ankle issues but she's been playing through that for weeks now
- Silver Stars head coach Dan Hughes said he certainly will make adjustments for tonight's game as there were things he wasn't happy with regarding his team's performance, "The obvious one always with Phoenix is transition defense. We have to become really aware of the different ways they can hurt us. I thought Bonner running the floor caused us tremendous problems in game 1."
- Coach Hughes did not feel his team is playing with any extra motivation due to feeling slighted by the media who picked Phoenix to roll over the 15-19 Silver Stars in the first round
- Full Coach Hughes audio
- Coach Gaines told his team to have a short memory and is confident they will since his team is full of veteran players who have been in these situations
- He went on to talk about his coaching style and decisions at the end of game 1, "People always second guess things. I do things a little different. I'm more of an instinct coach."
- "It was a bunch of little mistakes that added up to a five point deficit," Gaines said about his team's defensive performance in the first half of game 1
- Full Coach Gaines audio
- Penny Taylor was fantastic in the final quarter of game 1. She gives credit to playing with Diana and Cappie who draw so much attention from the defense. She felt the team's offense was stagnant during the game so she tried to be more aggressive going to the basket
- "That's the beauty of this team, we have so many offensive threats," said Taylor who is confident that Diana will not have another bad scoring night again in game 2
- Taylor felt that the Mercury were flat footed and not aggressive enough defensively in game 1 and looks to change that tonight
- Full Penny Taylor audio
- Silver Stars all star forward Sophia Young said this about game 2, "I totally expect them to come out more aggressive. I expect Diana and Cappie to pretty much take the game over into their hands and come out with a focus. They're playing at home so things are going to be a lot different in terms of how aggressive they play. So with that in mind, we need to be extra focused, get every set of loose balls and be ready to take whatever they give to us."
- While Coach Hughes said that you can't think about having to only win one of two games in Phoenix, Young definitely thinks that having won the first game takes some of the pressure off tonight
- Full Sophia Young audio