Media Day: Mercury Calm, Confident, Healthy
To accurately report on something, I believe one must also watch and observe the situation whenever possible. Rather, it’s not enough to simply take a quote from a two-minute conversation and feel good about the information being presented or relayed.
I say this because after media day, the Phoenix Mercury players will have undoubtedly been asked the same questions over and over again – and, in turn, probably had the same response to each question.
Are you excited to start the season?
How does it feel to be healthy entering training camp?
What are your goals for the season?
In my opinion, I believe the real world (consciousness) happens at the level of actions, not colloquy. That’s why being observant increases the validity and realness of the story for the audience.
Having prefaced that, in regards to the 2013 Phoenix Mercury, there are three basic themes that I observed from the team as they interacted with each other, the coaching staff and droves of media.
1. They are ready to stop talking and start working – and have fun doing it.
2. They have a quiet confidence in what they are capable of, but understand nothing will come easy.
3. Individual stats aren’t important; they’ll do whatever it takes to win.
Still, there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance (the same with calmness and apathy). But the Mercury players never let themselves fall into the latter descriptions. It's no secret the team has playmakers and scorers at every position from top to bottom. Now, with rookie Brittney Griner, they have a defensive and post presence unlike anything they've had before. Yes, expectations are high, but to the Mercury that means they need to work even harder.
With the veterans and superstars the Mercury has, that certainly won’t be an issue.
“We have to do the work first,” Diana Taurasi said during Media Day. “There are obviously high expectations of us and ones that we put on ourselves. But I really think everybody just wants to get on the court and work on gelling together. We feel like we have a deep team but that doesn’t mean anything if we all don’t work hard on doing the little things to keep getting better and better.”
Indeed, the Phoenix Mercury has justifiable reason to feel confident. When healthy, combined with their depth of talent, they’re as strong a team as any in the WNBA. Plus, with the addition of Brittney Griner, a solid case could be made that this year’s roster is one of (if not the) deepest and most gifted in team history. They'll start what is, essentially, a second training camp tomorrow with a full week of practices before their first pre-season game on May 19. Gaines said he'll use that time to hopefully get everyone on the same page and start clicking as collective unit.
“We’ll definitely have some weapons,” Corey Gaines conceded. “But the key is that we have unselfish veterans willing to do whatever it takes to win. That really helps us. Now that Dee [Diana Taurasi], Penny [Taylor], Candice [Dupree] and DB [DeWanna Bonner] are back we’ll get things rolling again.”
In addition to Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor returns this year after a season-ending knee injury she sustained in April of 2012. After spending a few minutes with Taylor today, it was blatantly obvious how motivated she was to get back on the hardwood with the team. In fact, as soon as media day ended around 3:00 PM, she immediately changed into her Phoenix Mercury practice jersey and made her way to the court for a workout with Corey Gaines.
“I think we’re all at the point of being ready to stop talking about how excited we are and start playing,” Taylor said with anticipation. “With all the injuries last year, there are a lot of us who’ve never really played together. I’m very much looking forward to getting on the court and working through any kinks.”
Perhaps the best indication of how special this season could be is how genuinely the team interacted in between interviews and photo shoots. Players would laugh, joke around and were engaged in sincere, light-hearted conversations.
The chemistry, at least off the court, is undeniable.
“We all get along and understand what it’s going to take to get to the level we want to be at,” said a healthy Candice Dupree. “It really is a total team effort. I think everyone knows they have a job to do. But the difference with us is that most of us know each other so the familiarity helps. We have a great group of people here.”
But even though the players remain calm, cool and collected, they can’t help but be happy and enthusiastic for the season. It sounds tired and (by now) overblown, but the team truly is excited.
Just ask DeWanna Bonner.
“Oh, absolutely I’m excited,” she said with a beaming smile. “I know everybody is probably saying the exact same thing, but oh well. It’s always good to be back in Phoenix. Besides, it’s too cold in Russia!”
Needless to say, if things go according to plan, the Mercury will make Phoenix even hotter.