The Mercury Five: May 30
Every Thursday throughout the season, PhoenixMercury.com's Ben York gives the X-Factor the five most important things they need to know about the team heading into the upcoming week.
5. Intense, Physical Practice after Home Opener Loss
Yes, it’s early, but there is no denying the loss against the Chicago Sky stung.
Still, at this point, the team is concentrating on moving forward.
"We've moved on," Corey Gaines said after practice today. "We've taken what we can from that game and will apply it. It's going to take some time for everyone to figure things out. But we have a veteran group so I'm not concerned at all."
I’m always more interested in how the team looks after a loss than I am after a win. In my opinion, that tells me infinitely more about the mood and mindset of the players. That’s why I was ecstatic to see the team have the most physical and intense practice of the year on Wednesday.
It showed me the team isn’t happy with the way they played. It showed me they are motivated and driven to get the taste of a 22-point loss out of their mouth.
But most of all, it showed me the team we saw on May 27 isn’t indicative of the one we’ll see the rest of the year.
4. First Road Trip
Sometimes, a road trip is just what the doctor ordered.
For the Mercury, the forthcoming three-game swing to Seattle (June 2), Minnesota (June 6) and Indiana (June 8) couldn’t have come at a better time. When a team is on the road, they are (usually) free to just bond together and focus on becoming a better basketball team – fewer appearances and obligations.
Certainly, there are no easy games on this trip, but I anticipate it aiding to the Mercury’s overall chemistry and rhythm as a team.
3. Hornbuckle’s Toughness
Of all the players in training camp and in practice to date, Alexis Hornbuckle has been, perhaps, the most impressive. Her intensity level rivals Diana Taurasi’s, she’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen her in and her focus is all business.
Her mentality has done wonders for the squad’s second unit and elevated everyone’s level of play.
“Ever since I got here, Buck [Hornbuckle] has been real good to me,” added Sammy Prahalis. “She’s always giving me tips and helping me out. During training camp she was a great leader and she always works hard. Going against her has helped me a lot.”
Buck’s toughness on both ends of the floor should be a huge asset for the team over the next three games on the road.
2. Four Training Camps?
If you think about it, the Mercury has essentially participated in four training camps this year.
They opened up camp the first week of May, had another week of practice when the “Big Four” (Taurasi, Taylor, Dupree, Bonner) arrived leading up to the preseason game against the Japan National Team, a full week prior to the home opener on May 27, and they’re basically in the midst of their fourth training camp now before their first road game in Seattle on Sunday.
"When you lose by 20, you're not that good as a team or as individuals," Diana Taurasi bluntly said. "There are no egos here; we know how hard we have to work. We're putting in that time now and hoping it pays off later."
1. Taurasi Always the Last Person on the Floor
Nothing is certain in life except for death, taxes and Diana Taurasi being the last player to leave the court after practice.
Every. Single. Time.