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WNBA Team Preview: Phoenix Mercury (#5)

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Will a healthy Diana Taurasi and the return of “the most versatile player in the world” bring another WNBA Championship to Phoenix?

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President Obama Hosts WNBA Champion Phoenix Mercury At The White House
Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi presents President Barack Obama with a Mercury jersey at the White House on Aug. 15, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

WNBA all-time leading scorer, Diana Taurasi, told me in an interview this week that ending overseas play early due injury — resulting in a four-month hiatus from the court — is behind her appearance of having found the fountain of youth.

In addition to starting the season healthy, Taurasi expressed excitement about the arrival of a few new faces she has competed against in the past, as well as the long-awaited return of the woman Taurasi referred to as “the most versatile player in the world.”

With the reigning champions, Minnesota Lynx, still title-hungry — and the Los Angeles Sparks fighting for its second championship in three years — are the Phoenix Mercury viable contenders?

What to expect

Familiar faces

She’s baaaaack! And her team couldn’t be more pleased, especially Taurasi, who considers DeWanna Bonner to be “the most versatile player in the world.” Speedy hands and feet make her a masterful shot blocker and ball thief. She brings toughness and tenacity at both ends of the court, and has displayed a willingness to go after every ball. As of yesterday, Phoenix and feisty shot-creator/long-range shooter, Leilani Mitchell, have agreed to a two-year contract extension. Defensive difference-maker, Brittney Griner, also returns, thanks to a multi-year contract she signed in 2017.

Notable newbies

The Mercury has its share of rookies to break in, like Marie Gülich, Raisa Musina and Chelsea Nelson. But the seasoned veterans who were added to the roster should have an immediate impact on the team’s chances at a championship run. Chief among the players whose games Taurasi has long admired are Briann January and defensive behemoth Sancho Lyttle.

Biggest obstacles

  1. The time frame for developing team chemistry with a bunch of new players is yet to be seen.
  2. How long will it take Bonner to regain her rhythm? Will her return feel just like riding a bike or will it be an uphill climb?
  3. The Arizona heat is brutal in summer.

Game zone

Preseason opener

Phoenix Mercury vs. Seattle Storm

Tuesday May 8 at 3 p.m. EST

KeyArena in Seattle, WA — Tickets

National TV: none listed

Season home opener

Phoenix Mercury vs. Dallas Wings

Friday May 18 at 10 p.m. EST

Talking Stick Resort Arena — Tickets

National TV: none listed