Brittney Griner due back Saturday for the Phoenix Mercury

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 14: Brittney Griner
PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 14: Brittney Griner /

After missing the last eight games (including Thursday’s national TV matchup versus the Dallas Wings), Brittney Griner will return on Saturday night when her Phoenix Mercury host the Seattle Storm. Griner has been suffering through both a left knee bone bruise and right ankle sprain since before the All-Star break, and her return will be a welcome reprieve for a Mercury squad that has gone 2-5 in her absence.

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During the Wings-Mercury broadcast on Thursday night, ESPN’s Holly Rowe confirmed the target that had been swirling around for weeks as Griner’s return date. It was also mentioned by teammate Diana Taurasi during an interview early in the game broadcast on Thursday.

Griner is averaging 22.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in the most productive season of her career. She was a bona fide MVP candidate before the injury stole nearly a fifth of this season from her, bringing a 58 percent field goal efficiency and nearly 14 percent assist percentage this season in a campaign that worked to broaden her overall game. The Mercury have struggled to replace her production.

Against Breanna Stewart and the Storm on Saturday, Phoenix will need Griner. Prior reports mentioned the possibility of a minutes restriction early on for the Mercury star, but Griner has proven that just her presence can be enough to invigorate her team and intimidate the defense. She will look to continue her MVP-caliber season against Stewart.

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Phoenix faces Seattle at 10:00 p.m. ET on Saturday in the Storm’s first contest since firing and replacing Jenny Boucek. Both teams will carry a bit of baggage into this matchup.