Mercury Laser-Focused as Season Looms
With larger than life personalities like Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner, media day is often fraught with jokes, smiles and laughter.
Case in point: this video.
But just 20 minutes after the photo shoots and interviews came to an end (click here to see a replay of the live stream), the entire Phoenix Mercury squad began their longest, most intense practice of the season to date.
The time for fun had passed.
“We got after it,” Sandy Brondello said. “The season starts on Saturday. Now is the time to really focus. We have our entire team here with Ewelina [Kobryn], Anete [Jekabsone-Zogota] and Mistie [Bass]. We need to all get on the same page with everyone here and I think we did that today.”
Training camp in the WNBA is unique to any other sport. There are times when, literally, half the team is competing in an equally challenging league halfway across the globe. So when teams have their entire squad available days before the season begins, they take full advantage of it.
“It’s go time,” Diana Taurasi said. “Everyone’s here. We have a lot of new players that we are excited about. I like where we are headed. Everyone is willing to put in the work and that’s huge especially early in this year. We need to make sure we are improving every week while we are in the season.”
No talking, just make it happen.
That was theme during media day and it was immediately personified when the Mercury practiced with their entire roster for the first time in 2014.
That is to say, this season the Mercury’s actions will speak louder than words.
“My expectations are really low this year as far as the outside world,” Taurasi added. “My expectations are going to be really high on how much we can focus and concentrate every single day. It’s not easy to do. It’s not easy to get 11 players, three coaches, training staff, everyone laser focused on something without having to talk about it – making sure at shoot around when we’re going over a team’s play to be [completely] focused on that team’s play.
“If we can do that, we have a great chance.”
Taurasi isn’t one to mince words or give half-hearted compliments. Thus, her feelings on the coaching staff and players on this year’s team should mean that much more.
“I know all these women pretty well, and they all want to win,”Taurasi said with conviction. “There’s no doubt in my mind that Sandy [Brondello] is going to put them in a position where they feel comfortable and that they’ll be able to do that.”
Although Brondello has only been able to work with the players for a couple weeks, her reviews have been nothing short of extraordinary.
“Sandy is a really good friend of mine,” Penny Taylor said. “She’s someone I’ve played with on the Australian National Team and someone I really respect. We have very similar ideas of how basketball should be played.
“It’s been so much fun to see her out there guiding and leading our team.”
Indeed, for the players who haven’t had a chance to work with Brondello previously, the rhetoric remains the same.
“She’s already provided structure that maybe we’ve been missing in the past,” DeWanna Bonner said. “We have a great roster this year. I don’t think offense will be a problem. The new players have already bought into Sandy’s system.
“We’re all ready to really focus and listen to the things we need to do every time we step on the court.”
Brondello’s example of preparation has proven to be contagious. But more than that, every player knows full well what her role will be on the team in 2014. That collective mentality speaks volumes to the respect the players have for Brondello and the direction she has the team headed in.
“We know exactly what Sandy wants,” Erin Phillips said. “We know the style she wants to play not just offensively but defensively, too. We want to be aggressive on offense and defense. We want to create turnovers and play up-tempo. It’s a tough way to play because it is end to end for 40 minutes but it’s fun to play, as well. I’m really excited to be a part of this franchise.
“I think we’re going to win a lot of games and have a lot of fun.”