Diana Taurasi spoke on Monday for the first time since training camp began.
Despite the scent of uncertainty a 12-week recovery from back surgery might be expected go give off, no such concern can be found within Phoenix Mercury training camp this week.
Speaking to the media for the first time since a procedure to repair a disc in her back, Mercury guard Diana Taurasi said she feels great and is excited about the opportunity her absence will provide for the rest of Phoenix’s roster to get comfortable ahead of a season in which the team is expected to compete for a championship.
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“It’s a pretty patient and slow process because I would like to do more, I would like to push a little harder,” Taurasi said Monday. “Right now, it’s in the healing, recovery stage so I’m taking it slowly but I feel great.”
Taurasi was seen gingerly putting up jump shots at the end of practice and said she was recently cleared to shoot. Wednesday will mark three weeks since the April 24 operation.
Sitting on the sidelines has given the gregarious Taurasi and even bigger opportunity to observe and lead. That chance ought to be even more valuable this season as the Mercury try to overcome their bitter Game 5 defeat in last year’s semifinal round.
“For the three rookies that we drafted, (the question is) can they make an impact on our team, whether it’s a play here or a run of two minutes where they impact the game,” Taurasi said.
Breaking into the rotation of the likely championship favorite is a tall order even for the formidable trio of rookies Phoenix was able to nab, particularly because Taurasi herself will count for one of the final 12 roster spots despite her injury, according to a team representative.
The Mercury can credibly claim three of the league’s top 15 or so players, meaning that’s where the team will look for production despite its enviable draft night haul.
“There’s a sense of it’s a continuation from last year because we do have that chemistry with Sandy, with some of the core pieces that have been here for a long time now and know what to expect,” Taurasi said.
Coach Sandy Brondello has said she expects Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner to push one another for the MVP trophy at the end of the year, and Taurasi echoed the idea. Taurasi also said the team getting to adjust throughout camp to their legendary playmaker being on the bench will allow them to execute at an even higher level in her absence.
Brondello after practice was pushing Griner and Bonner to lock horns in a nightly contest over who could grab the most rebounds and secure a double-double. The coach’s openness with her players and willingness to adjust based on feedback she receives from them is part of the reason Taurasi said she is so confident in the Mercury’s ability to be right back in the same position this season as they were last fall.
Former Mercury All-Star and Taurasi’s wife, Penny Taylor, was added to Brondello’s staff this year and will only contribute to that chemistry, Taurasi said.
“She’s so great because there’s such great synergy between her and Sandy and what they want to get done,” Taurasi said. “It’s nice to see when coaches all are on the same page from practice to shootarounds to the games. They play so well off each other and that’s credit to Sandy.”
Assuming a patient and full recovery for Taurasi, the presumptive favorites appear primed to pick up where they left off pushing the champion Seattle Storm to the brink just eight months ago.
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