All-Star guard back in town and ready to defend title

One-on-One with Diana Taurasi

By Steven J. Koek,
Posted: May 16, 2008

Mercury All-Star guard Diana Taurasi followed up her first WNBA Championship with a couple of more titles while playing overseas during the offseason.

Back in the Valley and ready to defend the title, Dee talked with as she prepared for her first and only preseason practice before Saturday afternoonís season opener against the Sparks.

The former WNBA Rookie of the Year talked about her championship offseason, the Mercuryís coaching change and dealing with the upcoming season without last seasonís MVP candidate Penny Taylor. Welcome back to Phoenix, how does it feel to be back in town after an exhausting offseason?

Mercury guard Diana Taurasi: It is good to be back. It was a long winter, a fun winter, but it feels good just to be back and see some of the familiar faces again. Itís really nice.

It really is an amazing feeling to look back and to see what we did, and to come back this year and try to do it again. It seems like it was impossible, but it got done, so maybe thereís some hope that it could be done this year.

I always make the drive from L.A. to Phoenix and thatís my time to reload and recharge, and get back into the Phoenix mindset, so Iím ready to go. It feels like home. You continued your championship success overseas this offseason, how was that experience for you?

Taurasi: It was amazing. Our team won the Euro League and the Russian League, which was the first time a team won both of those titles back to back. We did a pretty big deal out there. It was a great team and it was good to be out there. You come into the defense of the WNBA Championship with a new coach, but not a new system. How will it help this season to have someone who knows the ins and outs of the style Paul Westhead played in former assistant Corey Gaines?

Taurasi: Thatís the beauty about it, because it is Corey and not Coach Westhead. I think he has same principles, the same fundamentals, the same hard work that Coach Westhead put in. So, weíre confident and whenever youíre confident in your coach you play at a different level. Other than the head coach, the biggest change from last season will be the absence of Penny Taylor. What will this team need to do to compensate for what she added to the team play?

Taurasi: Obviously Pennyís a big loss. To say itís not, to say we could replace her with anyone is foolish to say. But the reality is that we donít have her on the team. Weíre going to have to find ways and find a style of play that suits our team this year. And that always works its way out throughout the course of the season. The already tough Western Conference was bolstered this offseason and you enter the season with a championship target on your collective backs. What are your thoughts on the West this season and your chances of regaining the title?

Taurasi: The West is a beast this year. Again. Every year Iíve been in the league the West has been dominant, and this year itís been reloaded from top to bottom. Minnesota and Houston getting better without a doubt, L.A. with Candice (Parker) and Delisha Miller. Everyone keeps talking about Candice, but Delishaís the one that makes them nasty. Thatís why they call her ďD-Nasty.Ē So, itís going to be tough. You alluded to your having played a lot of basketball this offseason and you come into the start of the season with just one team practice. How are you feeling physically?

Taurasi: Iím good. Obviously Iíve been playing a lot of basketball and logging a lot of minutes in a lot of different countries. But I feel good for the most part. Iím ready to go.