A Complete Guide to the Mercury’s Offseason
The 2014 WNBA season is, literally, just around the corner!
Training camps kick off next week which, in turn, means there’s less than 30 days until the Mercury’s season begins against the Seattle Storm at home on May 17.
Offseasons can be long, sure, but the Mercury’s has been anything but quiet.
Here a cumulative recap of the announcements, events and signings to get you up to speed before training camp starts on Monday, April 28.
Get ready; a LOT happened.
Indeed, the offseason began with a bang.
Phoenix named veteran WNBA player, coach and former Australian Olympian Sandy Brondello the ninth head coach in franchise history. Brondello was also named the team’s vice president of player personnel.
“In a thorough search of very qualified candidates, Sandy separated herself as the right coach for this team and the right person for this job,” said Mercury Executive Vice President Jim Pitman. “She is a winner, a leader, an excellent communicator and a detail-oriented tactician. Her lifetime of basketball experience and her ability to evaluate talent year-round will greatly benefit our organization, and we are thrilled to add such a great ambassador of the women’s game.”
“As an organization and a facility, we want to provide the best sports and entertainment experience to our fans, and we are committed to bringing the best events to US Airways Center,” said Jason Rowley, Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury President. “Hosting the Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star Game 2014 will do both of those things, and it will give our great players and the league’s great players the opportunity to play in front of the best fans in the WNBA.”
WNBA All-Star 2014 will take place at US Airways Center in Phoenix, on Saturday, July 19, and will be nationally televised on ESPN, with tip-off at 3:30 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. PT).
In a bold move toward long-term sustainability, the Mercury entered into an exclusive, multi-year marquee partnership with Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort that includes branding on the Mercury’s home and away jerseys.
The new agreement also designates Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort as the presenting sponsor of the Phoenix Mercury.
“The partnership between Casino Arizona and the Phoenix Mercury is truly an obvious fit,” said Peter Arceo, Senior Director of Marketing for Casino Arizona. “We both provide the ultimate entertainment in our respective fields. We are proud to be a part of all the excitement the Mercury will bring this season and beyond.”
In perhaps the team’s biggest offseason coup, Phoenix added former WNBA Champion guard Erin Phillips, a sharpshooter and hard-nosed perimeter defender who is expected to join the Mercury's starting lineup
“Erin Phillips is the embodiment of the need we set out to address this offseason—a capable ball-handler, knock-down shooter, and tough perimeter defender who plays hard every night," said Mercury General Manager Jim Pitman. "We are very pleased to add a player of Erin's talent and a person of her caliber to our roster."
The Mercury continued to bolster their core and bench with the signings of proven veterans, Mistie Bass and Shay Murphy.
“Assembling a complete, championship-level roster requires depth at every position and toughness on both ends of the floor,” said Mercury General Manager Jim Pitman. “The addition of Mistie gives us an established defender and rebounder who will compete every day in practice and games and will make us a better team.”
Certainly, Bass strengthens the rebounding and defensive toughness of the Mercury's frontline which already includes All-Stars Brittney Griner and Candice Dupree.
But Phoenix didn’t stop there. Enter Shay Murphy.
“Shay’s versatility and her ability to handle the ball and slash to the basket are ideal for how we will play under coach Brondello,” said Mercury General Manager Jim Pitman. “This move gives us legitimate backcourt depth and adds another strong competitor to our roster.”
The 5-11, 164-pound Murphy is a seven-year veteran that gives the Mercury another ball handler and playmaker along with Erin Phillips to team with former WNBA MVP Diana Taurasi.
This year’s WNBA Draft probably felt a little different than 2013 (i.e. a 77-foot poster of Brittney Griner draped across Hotel Palomar), but that didn’t mean the Mercury wasn’t thrilled with the players they selected.
Phoenix added Oklahoma State point guard Tiffany Bias (17th overall, second round), Penn State shooting guard Maggie Lucas (21st overall, second round), and Australian forward Stephanie Talbot (33rd overall, third round) in the 2014 WNBA Draft.
One thing’s for sure – each player is poised for a competitive showing in camp.
Proving they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in 2014, the Mercury continued to add frontcourt and backcourt depth in the signings of Polish center Ewelina Kobryn and Latvian guard Anete Jekabsone-Zogota.
Kobryn is a two-year WNBA veteran whose rights were originally acquired from Seattle on March 27, and who currently plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia, the team for which Mercury Head Coach Sandy Brondello coaches and for which Mercury guard Diana Taurasi plays overseas. The 6-4, 201-pound center, who has played internationally since 2002, has averaged 7.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in EuroLeague play this season, and has shot 54.1 percent from the floor (8.9 points, 4.0 rebounds in Russian League play).
Jekabsone-Zogota is a two-year WNBA veteran who last played in the league in 2010, and who also currently plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia. The 5-9 guard is a career 37.5-percent three-point shooter in the WNBA, who this season has shot 40.0 percent from long range in Euroleague play and 51.6 percent from three-point distance in Russian League play. Jekabsone-Zogota owns career WNBA averages of 8.5 points in 21.2 minutes in 47 games (30 starts), all with Connecticut.
In what could be one of the most competitive training camps in recent memory for the Mercury, they also added point guard Chelsea Hopkins, guard Alexis Gray-Lawson and forward April Sykes to the team's training camp roster.