Mercury Season Preview Part I: 'Excited'
PhoenixMercury.com previews the 2013 season in a special three-part series. Part 1 discusses the team's excitement for the season, Part 2 centers around their expectations and Part 3 talks about the Mercury's relentless motivation.
When asked for one word that describes the overriding theme of the Phoenix Mercury heading into the 2013 WNBA season, DeWanna Bonner quickly replied, "Excited."
It sounds tired, and “excited” is a word that’s been thrown around ad nauseam in regards to the team, but if I’m honest, that truly is the most fitting label for the 2013 Phoenix Mercury.
Related: VIDEO: Preseason Special Part 1 | VIDEO: Preseason Special Part 2 | VIDEO: Preseason Special Part 3 | Tickets
Indeed, the potential for the Mercury this season has been well documented. With Brittney Griner joining a core of Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, Candice Dupree, DeWanna Bonner and Sammy Prahalis, coupled with returning veterans Alexis Hornbuckle, Chardé Houston and Krystal Thomas, it seems the sky is the limit for the team this year.
“There’s a different energy in the city and around the arena,” Diana Taurasi said. “It’s exciting and we players can definitely feel it. Now it’s our job to work as hard as we can to justify it.”
The added dimension of Brittney Griner, one of the most dominant women’s college basketball players in history, opens up practically never-ending possibilities for the Mercury on both ends of the floor.
Her biggest impact, however, will undoubtedly be on the defensive end.
Griner’s presence around the basket, even taking into account the newly created defensive three seconds rule, will (at the very least) force opponents to think about her – something the Mercury has never had.
Ideally, Griner’s addition will force the opposing team to alter shots and create more offensive possessions for the Mercury – a blocked shot is no different than forcing a turnover. The more offensive possessions the Mercury gets, the more opportunities they have to score.
Still, Corey Gaines knows full well how quickly things can change regardless of how much talent and potential a team has.
And while the team is visibly excited, what about Gaines?
“’Excited’ maybe isn’t the word I’d use,” Gaines said after a brief pause. “As a coach, you’re always preparing and trying to improve things that the team isn’t doing well. We’re confident, but ‘excited’ is probably too loose of a term for the coaches. I can definitely see why the players feel that way, though. I’ll put it this way: As a team, we have more options than we’ve ever had.”
Gaines is right on the money.
For example, a lineup of Brittney Griner, DeWanna Bonner, Candice Dupree, Penny Taylor and Diana Taurasi is not only one of the biggest in the league, but one of the most lethal on both ends of the floor. Conversely, if Phoenix wants to go small and quick, they can certainly do that as well – Gaines could go with Sammy Prahalis, Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, Candice Dupree and DeWanna Bonner. If they want to focus more on team defense, Gaines has the option of going with Alexis Hornbuckle, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, DeWanna Bonner and Krystal Thomas.
You get the idea; rather than go through every potential option, the point is that the Mercury has one of the most versatile lineups in franchise history.
Similarly, it’s important not to discount the veteran presence that Alexis Hornbuckle, Chardé Houston and Krystal Thomas all bring off the bench. Not coincidentally, when fellow teammates were asked to name players that have impressed them during training camp, Hornbuckle, Houston and Thomas were all repeatedly mentioned.
“I think we’re all at the point of just wanting to get the season going,” Sammy Prahalis said. “We feel like we’re looking better and better in practice and kind of at that point where we need to test ourselves in a real game.”
In the end, everything will play itself out on the floor. But the excitement surrounding the team is more than palpable.
For now, at least, that’s just fine.
“It’s almost here,” said Brittney Griner about the start of the season. “We’ve been working hard in practice and all of the players are pumped. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves, though. We’re taking it one step at a time. I get chills thinking about putting on my jersey and playing in front of thousands of Mercury fans.
“Honestly, though? I can’t wait.”VIDEO: In part one of our three part preseason special, PhoenixMercury.com asks players and coaches who they have been excited to watch in training camp.