Bonner, Pondexter will spearhead leagues No. 1 offense

Shock Won’t Face Taurasi

Penny Taylor Returns to Phoenix

by Ryan Pretzer

The Mercury - proprietors of a league-high 11 wins, including five in a row - got even stronger Friday when two-time All-Star forward Penny Taylor rejoined the team. In her last full season in Phoenix, Taylor averaged 17.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists as the Mercury won the 2007 WNBA championship.

Her status for Saturday night is unclear, but it sounds unlikely she’ll be in uniform against the Shock.

"We all can't wait to see her back out there again, but with things like this it's obviously impossible to put an exact date on anything," Mercury president Jay Parry said in a story on the Mercury web site.

When the Shock take the floor in Phoenix Saturday night, they won’t have to worry about the league’s leading scorer.

Diana Taurasi has been suspended for two games by the Mercury following a drunk-driving incident earlier in the month, for which she faces three charges. She will miss Saturday’s game against Detroit, as well as a home contest against the Lynx July 22.

“I am deeply sorry and embarrassed for causing this distraction for my teammates, the Phoenix Mercury, the WNBA, family and fans,” Taurasi said in a statement posted on the Mercury’s web site.

The Mercury - who have won five in a row and are a league-best 11-4 - should still have plenty of firepower to combat the Shock, beginning with the league’s second-leading scorer, Cappie Pondexter. Her scoring average (19.9) trails only Taurasi’s 20.7. Pondexter also leads the WNBA in assists (5.8 apg, tied with Sue Bird). She set a Mercury record with 15 assists in a 100-81 win over Sacramento Wednesday.

Pondexter, who won Finals MVP honors against the Shock in 2007, obviously will have more shots to take with Taurasi out, as will rookie guard DeWanna Bonner.

The lithe, 6-foot-4 Bonner has played above and beyond her status as the draft’s No. 5 overall pick. In just 20 minutes per game Bonner leads all rookies in scoring with 11.7 points, just ahead of Shavonte Zellous (11.5). Bonner also is pulling down 6.0 rebounds per game, second amongst all guards behind only Alexis Hornbuckle (6.3). Bonner had 15 points and three blocks against the Monarchs.

After a dysfunctional 2008 title defense - under first-year head coach Corey Gaines, the Mercury became the first defending champion to miss the playoffs - Phoenix is flying high in 2009, once again dominating the league’s offensive categories. The Mercury lead the WNBA in scoring (93.2 points), assists (18.9), field-goal percentage (45.9) and free-throw percentage (84.9), while being one of two teams to commit fewer than 15 turnovers per game (13.9).

Defensively, the Mercury are again surrendering the most points in the league (88.2 ppg), just as they did in 2007 and 2008. In the Shock’s last visit to Phoenix, Tasha Humphrey set a Shock rookie record by scoring 28 points in an 89-79 victory.

The precedent set by Humphrey, drafted 11th overall in 2008, bodes well for Detroit’s 2009 No. 11 pick, Zellous. The former Pittsburgh guard has scored 20 or more twice this season, including a 25-point outing at Atlanta. However, she has slipped during Detroit’s 2-0 win streak, scoring 12 points on 3-of-15 shooting with six turnovers and nine personal fouls in those contests.