American Brittney Griner, who was released from a Russian penal colony last December as part of a prisoner swap, has signed a one-year contract to play for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, ESPN reported on Saturday, February 18 (Sunday, February 19, Manila time).
According to the report, which cited a source, the 32-year-old free agent signed the deal on Saturday to return to the only WNBA team she has played for since they selected her with the first pick in the 2013 draft.
The Mercury, who open their 2023 WNBA season on May 19 at the Los Angeles Sparks, did not immediately respond when asked by Reuters to confirm the ESPN report.
In another development, Diana Taurasi signed a multiyear contract to remain with the Phoenix Mercury, the team announced Saturday.
Taurasi, a 40-year-old guard, is the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer heading into her 19th season with the Mercury.
Griner, 32, has spent nine seasons with the Mercury. She didn’t play in 2022 because of her arrest and conviction in Russia on drug charges. She returned to the United States in December after 10 months in Russia’s hands following a long negotiation of a prisoner swap.
After her release, Griner said she intended to return to the WNBA and the Mercury.
“I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon,” Griner wrote.
Griner last played for the Mercury in the 2021 WNBA season when she had one of the best years of her career and averaged 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists over 30 games.
‘Taurasi belongs in a Mercury uniform’
Taurasi, a 10-time All-Star and three-time WNBA champion, earlier said there was a possibility she might sign with another team.
Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said the team wasn’t going to let that happen.
“Diana Taurasi belongs in a Mercury uniform, and we are grateful for the continued faith she demonstrates in our organization by returning year after year,” Pitman said.
“The way she prepares her body, how much she cares about winning, and how much she cares about our franchise – on and off the court — are just a few of the things that make her a transcendent athlete and quite literally the greatest of all time.
“We look forward to more accolades, more historic moments, and more wins.”
Taurasi averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 assists. and 3.4 rebounds in 31 starts last season.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft and 2009 league MVP has scored a record 9,693 points in 505 games.
Taurasi is also the league’s all-time leader in field goals made and attempted, three-pointers made and attempted, and free throws made and attempted. Only Sue Bird (580) has played in more games.
As for Griner, she is an eight-time All-Star and was part of the Mercury’s 2014 WNBA title team. She is the league’s all-time leader in blocked shots per game with 2.8.
In 2021, Griner started 30 games for the Mercury, averaging 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. The Mercury selected her with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. – Rappler.com
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