One Fan's Experience With Mercury Practice Squad
Special to PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: June 17, 2011
Let me start by saying this: I am not a womenís basketball apologist. With that, Iím not a chauvinist either. I love basketball at all levels, so I went into this ďadventureĒ with a lot of respect for the Mercury. After practicing with them, that respect has only increased.
We tried out against other dudes. We were told that 150 guys were trying out, but only 15-20 guys would make the team.
Tryouts were the easy part.
Our squad is made up of mostly former or current college players, so itís not like weíre just scrubs off the street. At our first practice with Coach Gaines, it was just us guys. He gave us a few plays and tried to let us know that his team was good. Although we heard him, apparently his message didnít really sink in.
Our first practice with the ladies was a scrimmage with all the season ticket holders in attendance. We got embarrassed. The fact that weíre for the most part bigger, stronger, faster didnít really matter. We got our butts kicked. Look at the NBA Finals. The Miami Heat are more athletic, but the Mavs proved to be the better team.
Sure the practice squad has dudes that can dunk, and the Mercury donít, but letís not confuse size and jumping ability with basketball talent. They are good. Very good.
We do perform better now in practices than our first scrimmage, but itís not like we dominate them because weíre guys. Despite our early showing, we have some very competitive battles at practice.
In fact, my biggest surprise was how physical the ladies are. People have asked me if Iím afraid to hurt one of them because theyíre ladies. They are professional athletes who take their jobs seriously. Trust me, thereís a higher probability of them hurting me. Actually I get a few bumps and bruises every day.
When a guy sets a screen he covers his crotch for obvious ďanatomicalĒ reasons. Obviously, different reasons, but women set screens with their arms across their chests. Especially being tall, that makes getting through screens quite a bit rougher. To quote another guy on the practice squad to Coach Gaines about it, ďI have never in my life been hurt by a point guard before practicing with you guys.Ē
A first for me is how many jumpers Iíve had hit in my face. One of the reasons Iíve taken so many jumpers to the grill is Diana Taurasi (Dee as her teammates call her). I play good D, hand up and everything. It doesnít matter. Itís usually all netÖoh did I mention Iím probably 6 inches taller than her and have long arms?
Aside from the constant ego check, one of the cool things about being on the practice squad is being able to see how the team interacts. I knew Dee was a great player just from watching the games. What I didnít know is what a great teammate she is and how much she knows the game. Itís great seeing them all talk through plays and support each other.
Sure Dee gets a lot of the press, but please donít think sheís the only star on the team. From top to bottom, the roster is extremely talented, and itís been a lot of fun getting to know all of them a little bit.
I stress a little bit. Itís funny people ask me to get their autographs and stuff. What am I going to do pull a TO and put a sharpie in my sock? Itís not like weíre sitting around a campfire telling stories. Weíre playing basketball. Itís what they do for a living. We have a few conversations here and there, but Iím pretty sure they donít even know all of our names.
Iím not offended if none of the players know my name. It really doesnít matter. They get paid to play basketball. I pay to watch basketball. I understand weíre not there to kick it. Weíre there to try and help the ladies get what will be the 3rd ring for some of them. (I wonder if we get rings too if the Mercury win it all, but I digress.)
Some of the ladies are friendlier than others, but everyone from coaches to the support staff to the security guards have all been great. We get to live a behind the scenes look at a professional sports squad and actually play basketball with them. Sounds like a great way to spend the summer if you ask me.