Today at practice, the Phoenix Mercury ran a lot of scrimmaging, but didn't quite have the full team available. The men's practice squad, which is in full force, is more than just the opportunity to throw some stronger players at the Mercury roster - it's a way to give some of the ailing Mercury players rest.
The Mercury have been historically secretive about their injuries, but one of the first things Coach Gaines said was, "We're just trying to get healthy. It seemed like we were almost there, right on the edge of it, but then Penny had a twist. [DeWanna] had a twist." The Mercury still sit at 2nd place in the Western Conference, but everyone on the team knows that there is room for improvement.
The Men's Practice Squad
Coach Gaines commented that the men's squad helps out the team a great deal, especially in times like this, because it gives the players opportunities to rest. He commented that with DeWanna Bonner in a walking boot and a couple other players dinged up, it would have left him with 8 players, running 4 on 4. Having the men's squad gave him the ability to get a full practice and some 5 on 5 scrimmages.
He also commented that it gives the Mercury players some tougher competition. "They're stronger, faster," Gaines said of the men on the squad, "But they get tired too. And when you get tired, that's when you see a reach, can't stop yourself...you get sloppy." So while the practice squad has its perks, some of the guys don't have as much conditioning as the players who play ball for a living.
Bonner's Walking Boot
One of the few updates that came from Mercury practice today was seeing DeWanna Bonner in a walking boot. After the initial ankle twist, the word that came from the Mercury camp was that she was fine, just tweaked it a little bit, and that it didn't swell or anything. I'm not sure if this is just precautionary measures, but it looks as if the injury may have been a bit more serious than initially expected.
[Note by Seth Pollack, 06/22/10 4:43 PM MST ]
From official team sources: DeWanna Bonner has an inflamed first metatarsal phalangeal joint (sprained big toe) on her left foot and will be in a boot to rest it. She WILL play this weekend and is not expected to miss any games.
Preparing for the Rising Sun
The Connecticut Sun have been playing very well this season, posting a record of 8-3 in the young season and winners of 5 of their last 6 games. The Sun played the Mercury in what could have (or probably should have) been a blowout but managed to be an extremely close game, but how the Mercury managed to make the game so close is beyond me. The comeback was nothing short of incredible, but the team ultimately fell short in the waning minutes as the Sun were able to breathe a sigh of relief when the final buzzer sounded with their name on top.
The real surprise was Penny Taylor showing up in a big way after injuring her surgically repaired ankle. She not only provided the spark that the Mercury needed, but showed that the ankle injury may not be affecting her as much as we (or I) thought it would.
Of the philosophy of the game, Coach Gaines said that the Mercury have to get out and run. "That's just the kind of team we are," said Gaines. He also mentioned that giving the Sun a 15 point lead allowed them to shoot more threes, to space the floor better, and noted that when the game got tighter, those shots went away.
Expect the Mercury to use every minute of this 4 day rest to get players nursed back to health, and expect the game to be closer. I'm not saying it's a done deal and now that the Mercury know what they're up against, they'll win or anything, but I expect it to be a closer game for the first 3 quarters than what we saw last Sunday. While it appears that the team is a bit dinged up, spirits still seemed high and the mood optimistic.
The Mercury will practice again tomorrow before heading out East on Thursday, where they take a 3 game Eastern Conference road swing before returning home to host the Washington Mystics.