PHOENIX – The Phoenix Mercury open the season at home against the Las Vegas Aces on Friday night.
One player who won’t be on the bench will be on everyone’s lips: Brittney Griner.
As Mercury and the rest of the WNBA progress in the 2022 season, Griner nears the three-month mark of her incarceration in Russia with no timeline for her release.
“We think of her every day,” Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith said recently. “We love her and we will carry on her legacy, playing her voice and in her honor until she returns to us.”
Griner was arrested on February 17 after authorities at Moscow Airport said they found vape cartridges in her luggage allegedly containing cannabis-derived oil, which could carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The Biden administration found Griner wrongly imprisoned and has a hearing scheduled for May 19.
The WNBA will honor Griner with a floor sticker with her initials on her #42 at arenas across the league while she remains incarcerated.
Griner, a 6-foot-9 center, and WNBA career leading scorer Diana Taurasi were the key wheels for a Mercury franchise that won the WNBA title in 2014 and made the finals last season, losing to Chicago Sky.
Griner is a six-time All-Star and was named WNBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2014-15. She had one of the best seasons of her nine-year WNBA career in 2021, leading the WNBA in blocked shots and finishing second in scoring and sixth in rebounding.
Griner would again play a key role for the Mercury this season after the team added Tina Charles and Diamond DeShields to their roster.
Now Phoenix must adjust to playing without Griner.
“As soon as you bounce the ball, you start whistling, that’s all you really focus on when you’re a competitor,” said Vanessa Nygaard, Mercury’s first-year coach. “In basketball at any time someone could get hurt or something could happen and they wouldn’t be available and you have to fight with what you have at the moment.”
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https://www.local10.com/sports/2022/05/06/mercury-set-to-open-season-with-griner-detained-in-russia/ Mercury opens the season with Griner imprisoned in Russia