Taurasi, Pondexter, Taylor all nursing various injuries

Shock Next For Banged Up Mercury

By Mark Heller
June 22, 2007

In the aftermath of Wednesday night’s wreckage, more casualties surfaced.

Already soured by defensive and rebounding shortcomings against Washington on Wednesday, there were plenty of walking wounded at Mercury headquarters Thursday.

The Mercury entertain defending champion Detroit tonight at US Airways Center. The Shock have been playing at a championship level again this season, and just got healthier with the return of forward Cheryl Ford.

“They’re a power-packed team,” Mercury coach Paul Westhead said. “They have strength, talent and rings.”

Meanwhile, the Mercury (7-6) have expanded their presence in the training room.

The team’s three cornerstones — Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter and Penny Taylor — are all ailing. None of them feel great, but some feel better than others.

For the moment, Pondexter is in the worst shape of the All-Star bunch. A pulled muscle in her thigh kept her out of Wednesday’s game, and Westhead isn’t expecting a miracle for tonight.

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Sunday’s game against Houston appears to be a long shot as well, but the Mercury have six days off after this weekend to let the pain subside.

Though satisfied with the rotating play of Kelly Mazzante and Belinda Snell in Pondexter’s place, the team knows it’s missing a second dynamic player — by beating defenders to the basket and initiating the fast break — alongside Taurasi.

Taurasi is battling pain in her left foot, a condition which has flared up on occasion, partly because she’ll play more than 100 basketball games this year. She joined Pondexter on the stationary bikes during Thursday’s practice, but plans on playing tonight.

The team is keeping Taylor away from any contact drills while she battles pulled abdominal muscles. She’s worn a bulky, protective vest over her midsection. She had one of her best games of the season against the Mystics (23 points, seven rebounds, six assists), but there remain painful reminders.

“The most frustrating part is you can’t work in practice,” Taurasi said. “Sometimes it takes a little continuity to fix things, but the games are what counts.”

This one counts for a lot, given the Mystics (2-9) scored 34 more points than their season average in their 106-101 victory.

“We had spurts where we played well, but we didn’t rebound and our defense wasn’t there,” point guard Kelly Miller said. “That’ll kill you.”

There were no signs of panic from the locker room, even if one-third of the season is in the books.

“It’s a short season, and the next few games are important to get back to winning games,” Miller said.

“This one is important for us.”

BONUS SHOT: Fox Sports Net Arizona will televise Sunday’s game against Houston, and will premier Taurasi’s “In My Own Words,” following the game. The 30-minute show features a wide-ranging interview, touching on her childhood through her fame at Connecticut and with the Mercury, as well as her off-the-court lifestyle.

COPYRIGHT 2007, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.