Mercury's Focus: Work Hard, Ignore Hype

By Ben York,
Posted: May 16, 2013

We’re all guilty of taking things to the “extreme” sometimes.

For example, it is my belief that The Dark Knight is the single greatest piece of cinema in the history of motion pictures.

(Actually, that’s not the extreme; I’m 100 percent right about that.)

In the Phoenix Mercury’s case, there’s little denying the 2013 season brings with it some lofty expectations.

Brittney Griner on the Phoenix Mercury with a healthy Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, DeWanna Bonner, Candice Dupree and Sammy Prahalis? They’ll never lose again!

In reality, however, that's far easier said than done. The WNBA features the best competition in the world and multiple teams are stacked at every position. Plus, every team will inevitably go through high and low points in a season.

The Phoenix Mercury plays their first and only preseason game at home this Sunday against the Japan National Team. With the hype the team has received over the past month, the Mercury has infinite potential this season.

But potential, as it’s been said, has a “shelf life.”

After all, if we are to believe what the majority of the mainstream media asserts, the Mercury is basically a lock to win the 2013 WNBA Championship. Yet, for the players and coaches, (those who actually determine results on the floor), that thought couldn’t be further from their mind.

In fact, they say it’s a disservice to the many other immensely talented teams in the WNBA.

“It’s kind of silly,” Diana Taurasi said. “On paper, we have a roster full of really good players who can contribute on both ends of the floor. But there’s a lot of work we have to do to get to where we want to be. We aren’t even entertaining that thought right now. I mean, we haven’t played a game yet. Our focus is getting better as a team every day and at every practice. We can always get better as a team and that is what drives us.”

Indeed, on paper, and with the addition of Brittney Griner, the Mercury has few weaknesses. But being dubbed a “super team” early on isn’t always a good thing. Look no further than the struggles of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers – both were teams widely believed to be the odds-on favorite to capture their league’s corresponding titles, but fell far short of a bar that was set impossibly high.

So, what makes the 2013 Phoenix Mercury different?

“We have a team of veterans that are all unselfish,” Corey Gaines said. “We’re going to need everyone to contribute and play together. I’m not too worried about them getting big heads or caught up in the hype. They all know things can change in an instant.

“Look at last season.”

Having said all of that, it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t be excited about the team’s potential – far from it. In my opinion, this year’s roster is one of the most talented and motivated squads in Phoenix Mercury history.

The team’s depth combined with their collective work ethic could yield tremendously positive results.

Key word there? Could.

“It would be arrogant of us to just assume we’re going to be really good,” Taurasi added. “You can’t be any good if you don’t work hard every day, doing the little things before and after practice. And that’s what we’re doing. We definitely have the chance to be a really good team, but if we don’t do the little things and work hard every day it isn’t going to happen.”

For the Mercury, working hard has never been an issue. From the time training camp started over a week ago, the entire team has brought with them a blue-collar mentality to the court. Collectively, they fully understand what it will take to get to the top.

“Nobody is going to give us anything,” Candice Dupree said. “In fact, we probably have a bigger target on our backs this year. But we all understand that. The less caught up we get about what people are saying about to us, the better. The stuff people are saying is just that – stuff. We know we have to go out on the court and prove it night after night.

“But with the type of people we have on this team, it’s a challenge we’re all more than ready for.”


The NBA's all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, made a special visit to Phoenix Mercury practice on Wednesday.

"Man, I went to ‘Legends School' today and it was awesome," Brittney Griner said. "(He was) giving me the little technical parts of the sky hook and (telling) me to work on it. I am not going to say I mastered it, I mean he's the master of that, but be the young apprentice maybe and have that in my arsenal, that would open up my game a lot."