Suns and Mercury Both Shining Wednesday Night

By Brad G. Faye,
Posted: July 1, 2009

It seems like only yesterday Suns guard Goran Dragic was a wide-eyed rookie fresh out of the NBA Draft, enjoying his first-ever Phoenix Mercury experience. One year later, Dragic was again watching Diana Taurasi and Co. take the court, only this time, the playmaker had a lot more company.

On Wednesday, Dragic was accompanied courtside by fellow Suns sophomore Robin Lopez, as well as Phoenix’s newest rookies, Earl Clark and Taylor Griffin, taking in the Mercury’s big victory over the Seattle Storm. The four youngsters weren’t the only Suns in attendance on the night, however, as Amar’e Stoudemire who, thanks in large part to his daughter, has become a regular member of the Mercury fan base affectionately called the “X-Factor.”

“Mercury games are always fun,” STAT told “Anytime I have the chance to support their team and support their sport, I make sure to take advantage.”

For rookies Clark and Griffin, this marked their first WNBA experience. But as the two newest Suns said on Wednesday, it doesn’t appear as if it will be their last.

“This is my first game and I’m definitely enjoying it,” Clark said. “I’ve watched some WNBA on television but being here has definitely made me more of a fan. The players here really understand the fundamentals of this game, and it’s been really interesting.”

Like the product out of Louisville, Oklahoma’s Griffin was also impressed with the product put out on the floor Wednesday night by the Mercury.

“They can play,” Griffin said. “I think I might be able to pick up on a few of the moves if I can make it out to a few more games before the season is over.”

While the Suns organization always appreciates seeing its players study some new offensive moves over the summer, what Suns Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin said he appreciates most is seeing all the guys spending some time away from the practice court together.

“I think it’s really important and it’s something we’ve tried to build into our culture here,” Griffin said. “Amar’e’s done a really good job of trying to lead these young kids since he’s been back. He’s obviously a player the young guys look up to quite a bit and he’s done a good job in that role.”

But while the NBA know-how of an All-NBA First Team selection is always welcome, Griffin said the Suns star isn’t the only one who has done a good job of playing mentor this past week to the rookies.

“Robin and Goran have really come a long way and are showing that they’ve gotten more comfortable (being NBA players)," he added. "It’s really good to have them out together, especially here because this is a good product.”

Dragic laughed, “The situation has changed a little bit in a year.” actually caught up with Dragic last year during his initial Phoenix Mercury outing, which the second-year player explained was his first-ever exposure to the WNBA altogether.

“In Europe you don’t have the option of watching the WNBA games, only the men’s games,” the Slovenian said. “Last year I got to watch the women for the first time as a rookie and now I am introducing it to the new rookies. We’ve been playing some basketball together this week, maybe grabbing some lunch afterwards, but this is the first time we’ve actually had the chance to go out and do something like this. I can tell already that both of them will fit into this team just fine.”

STAT agrees that fitting in with the Suns veteran locker room should not be a problem for either Clark or Griffin.

“We’ve been hanging out ever since they got into town,” Stoudemire said. “They look good and we’ve been training hard. They’re in the weight room with me early each day which is a good sign for youngsters, and I think they’re definitely on the right track.”

Of the five Suns players who attended Wednesday night’s game against the Storm, only the veteran Stoudemire will not be representing Phoenix in Las Vegas for Summer League this year. The youngsters, on the other hand, are looking forward to the opportunity, particularly Lopez who told that the Mercury game experience has him ready to hit the court for competitive play as soon as possible.

“It’s a great environment here at these games and the fans bring a lot of energy with them,” Lopez said. “I’m always impressed with the skills these ladies possess – they’re great shooters, great defenders and they all work very, very hard out there.”

Like Lopez, Griffin also said he has always appreciated the talented Mercury roster, and while also a fan, “Griff” admitted he can’t help but put on that basketball operations hat at times while taking in a game.

“I’m scouting a little bit,” Griffin laughed. “I really want to find a way to get (Mercury rookie) DeWanna Bonner onto our Suns roster. She’s been impressive.”