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Phoenix Mercury Guard Temeka Johnson Started Season 'Half-Step Slow'

Temeka Johnson leads the break
Temeka Johnson leads the break

It was obvious watching the Phoenix Mercury in their first few games of the season that point guard Temeka Johnson was struggling to defend her opponent. She certainly looked slow in comparison to past seasons and that was a troubling sign. Now we know why.

Johnson suffered a severe ankle sprain while playing in Russia which started to form scar tissue that team trainer Tamara Poole had to "break up" in what was certainly an unpleasant experience. Meek re-injured the right ankle in a game on June 21 against San Antonio and hasn't played since. 

The ankle didn't swell after the Silver Stars game and she likely could have played on it, but the decision was made to shut her down and give the ankle more time to fully recover. She participated in practice on Thursday but is still a game-time decision for the Mercury's next game on Friday.

Johnson, 28, admitted that she was a "half-step slow" to start the season.

"I'm not going to say that it comes with age because I don't think I'm that old. Still, I was quick enough to do what we needed to do. The disadvantage is that it needs to be faster. My 70 percent is sometimes other's 100 (percent). That's my advantage, my speed."

The impact was worse on the defense end where Johnson said her lateral movement was limited. This was noticeable as she struggled staying in front of opposing point guards like Kristi Toliver and Briann January in the Mercury's opening four games.

Johnson said the her understudy, Ketia Swanier, has shown a lot of growth and increased confidence in the three games she's started since the injury. Swanier doesn't run the team with the same precision as Johnson but she's a capable defender and can use her speed to push the ball.

This should be comforting news for Mercury fans worried about Johnson's play. With proper treatment and rehab, the point guard should bounce back to 100 percent and provide a more effective on-ball defensive presence.