Mercury Hope Taylor Makes Quick Transition

By Mark Heller
East Valley Tribune
July 2, 2006

Until this weekend, Paul Westhead didn’t know Penny Taylor from Elizabeth Taylor, but that’s changing in a hurry. Penny — not Elizabeth —arrived fashionably late on Friday and was immediately activated — and active — during the Mercury’s narrow loss at Los Angeles.

Without a practice, she promptly scored 10 points in 14 minutes in an 85-83 defeat.

Twenty games remain in the regular season, including tonight’s home tilt with Washington. Plenty of time for the Mercury (6-8), who figure it’s better late than never to add an All-Star.

A championship run in the Italian League delayed Taylor’s return to Phoenix. Then, seeking some time off, there was some debating over when she would join the team and if she could commit for the rest of the season (including possible playoff games).

Logistics eventually worked out. Now the only drama left is how long it will take the talented forward to get up to speed with Westhead’s system.

“I’ve never met her, let alone know her game,” Westhead said late last week. “I’m not worried about it. Whenever you have a high-quality player showing up for your team, you say ‘Thanks for coming.’ ”

Taylor walks into a revamped roster. Of the current squad, only Diana Taurasi, Kamila Vodichkova and Sandora Irvin played with the 6-foot-1 Taylor last year. Belinda Snell and Taylor know each other well from playing together in Australia.

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“We have to fit her back in, but she’s been here the past couple years and she’s used to going from team to team and adjusting systems,” said Taurasi, who called her “arguably a top-10 player in the world.”

“She’s a mature player, so I don’t think it’ll be much of a problem.”

On a team which already leads the league in scoring (84 points per game), adding another 10-15 points per game could seem like overkill, but Westhead never met a scorer he didn’t like.

In addition, Taylor — the team’s first pick in the 2004 dispersal draft from Cleveland — adds another capable rebounder who can make 3-pointers and get to the basket.

One question posed was whether there were enough minutes and shots to go around. Even in Westhead’s game speed with piles of possessions, can a team with this many scorers successfully share the wealth?

“Nobody counts shots,” Vodichkova said. “I don’t think we’re about shots. We just want to win. If you have 20 shots, score 25 points and lose, it doesn’t make you feel good.”

It’s unlikely Taylor will be inserted into tonight’s starting lineup. Vodichkova figured it would take Taylor seven to 10 days to overcome jet lag and grasp the system, but the team’s brass promised it won’t be long before she starts.

“I’m welcoming the arrival and the challenge, whatever it brings,” Westhead said.

Then he smiled.

“Does this mean we have to work our schemes a little bit? I don’t mind doing that.”

COPYRIGHT 2006, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.