After spending more than 300 days in Russian custody last year, Brittney Griner made an emotional return to her WNBA home court in the Phoenix Mercury’s 75-69 defeat by the Chicago Sky.
Griner rejoined a Phoenix Mercury team in a state of flux. The team finished 15-21 in 2022, their second losing season in the last four years. However, they still entered the playoffs as the eight-seed but were swept in the first round. It was a disappointing decline from their Finals appearance in 2021. With Griner’s return, there were high hopes that the Mercury could bounce back. They were named among the title contender conversation, if not title favorites due to the superteams that had formed in Las Vegas and New York.
A grueling and unimaginable year away from the court appears to have had little effect on Griner’s game. Through the Mercury’s first two games of the season, Griner has 45 points, 16 rebounds, and 8 blocks. Furthermore, she recorded a double-double against the Chicago Sky on May 21 (25 points, 10 rebounds). The problem is that Griner is really the only player in Phoenix hooping hard.
The Mercury are 0-2 after losses to two rebuilding teams in the Sparks and Sky. By comparison, the Mercury have the fifth-best odds to win the WNBA title this season. There are signs of life in Phoenix, but they have simply been outplayed in their first two games. The Mercury are in win-now mode, trading a lot of 2023 capital to build a team around Griner and Diana Taurasi. However, that team has simply not come together through the opening games of the season. They will look to turn things around against the Minnesota Lynx on May 25.
Brittney Griner was introduced before her first home game in 585 days.
What a moment. pic.twitter.com/WWTgWmgBjm
— ESPN (@espn) May 21, 2023
Brittney Griner scored the opening basket in her first regular season home game since she was imprisoned in Russia.
After that game, she reiterated her commitment to helping bring home Americans detained around the world. pic.twitter.com/8Zd8Yv3YTR
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) May 22, 2023