Mercury Expect to Jell Faster This Season

By Matt Heller,
May 23, 2007

Opening night’s adrenaline rush had cooled off, and the Mercury went back to work this week to smooth out several potholes and resume get-to-know-you sessions.

Phoenix found some flaws in its season-opening win over San Antonio on Saturday, especially in the second half.

Practice and patience appear to be the team’s two biggest prescriptions, as Cappie Pondexter and Penny Taylor barely arrived from 15-plus-hour flights in time for Saturday’s game.

Pondexter got a one-hour practice in before Saturday’s game. Taylor didn’t.

There’s no substitute for time spent together, and even with a couple of practices before tonight’s game at Seattle, it’s going to take a little time for two of the team’s cornerstone players to catch up to the pack.

“The first game is OK, the next few days after that …” Taylor said. “You’re really happy to be here and ready to go, and then you fall into a pit. But I’ve done it for seven years; I should be used to it by now.”

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Neither players nor coach Paul Westhead imagined this would take more than another week for everyone to blend together. This is a much easier transition than last year, when Taylor arrived July 1 having not played in six weeks.

Because the team was trying to climb out of a large early season hole last year, Westhead said Taylor had about 10 days to get a full grasp of teammates and the offense.

This time, the coach figures his late arrivals could develop a healthy cohesion with teammates between tonight and a home game against Sacramento next week.

For Taylor, there’s also adjusting to being a power forward in this offense, which is far different from the small forward position she’s used to. There is more physicality required to defend inside.

“I don’t want to take a long time to get used to it,” Taylor said.

The same can be said for the rest of the team.

“We’ve got to feel each other out,” Pondexter said. “That’s what preseason is for. Obviously we didn’t have that. We’re trying to connect, and we’ve done a pretty good job. We’ve got a pretty good vibe.”

BONUS SHOTS: Diana Taurasi needs 15 points to become the second-fastest player in league history to 2,000 career points, behind only Cynthia Cooper. If she does it tonight, it will have taken her 103 games, one fewer than Seattle’s Lauren Jackson. Taurasi will be the second Mercury player (Jennifer Gillom) to reach 2,000 for her career...

The Mercury have won a franchiserecord eight consecutive games dating back to Aug. 1, 2006.

COPYRIGHT 2007, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.