Taurasi’s Talk All About the Playoffs Now
Aug. 23, 2007
Diana Taurasi is a fast talker. She starts a sentence at full speed and never stops for punctuation or a pause until she finally has to catch a breath and as you’re listening to her speak you’re marveling at how her brain can keep up with her mouth and just praying your tape recorder slows her voice down.
Even her Web site, dianataurasi.com, is hyperkinetic. This is a one-paragraph blurb from her online journal, dated Jan. 3, 2007:
“New York. New York. They are a really good team. Expectations for them weren’t so high before the season but they are tough and fight hard and I definitely see them in playoff contention. I mean, they haven’t lost yet so I’m not really going out on a limb or anything. I struggled after the first quarter and got into foul trouble, which took me out of my rhythm, I guess. Ashley Battle, our old teammate, was matched up against me. People ask if there’s extra motivation when going up against friends or former teammates, but it happens pretty much every game whether it’s a UConn (Connecticut) person or a USBA (United States Basketball Association) person. So I really don’t think about it that way. Whenever AB is on me, we laugh and joke around during the game. I ask how her mom and aunts are. She played great, I’ll tell you that.”
Someone get the woman a decaf.
“She’s so enthusiastic,” Mercury coach Paul Westhead said.
These days, Taurasi’s exuberance is off the charts. The Mercury are in the WNBA postseason for the first time since 2000.
It’s been a long seven years for the franchise and an interminable three seasons for Taurasi, who was so upset about missing the playoffs she couldn’t bring herself to watch the games.
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It wasn’t supposed to have taken Taurasi four seasons to get her first taste of the WNBA playoffs. She won three consecutive national championships at Connecticut. She was the first pick of the 2004 draft, perhaps the most celebrated player ever to enter the league.
There was an assumption she’d dominate the WNBA as she had college basketball.
Taurasi has been terrific — she likely will make her third All-WNBA first team this season and she led the league in scoring last year — but the Mercury were in turmoil.
Taurasi has had to deal with an ownership change, a coaching change and an overhaul of the roster. It wasn’t until Westhead was hired last season and brought in players to suit the fast tempo he prefers that Phoenix finally took some steps forward.
Now, as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Mercury have a real shot to win their first WNBA championship.
“This is a really big year. We’re good enough to make a run,” Taurasi said.
There’s little doubt Taurasi will bring her “A” game. She’s one of those athletes who plays her best when it matters most. She twice was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, and, in addition to her wonder years in college, she has considerable big-game experience on the international scene.
“She’s got an edge about her now,” Westhead said. “She’s had that for the last few weeks, that ‘I’m-ready-to-go’ look in her eye. I know she’s tough and tenacious and thrives on competition. I think she’ll make big plays for us. That’s what we’re expecting.”
Tell Taurasi what Westhead says, and a smile creases her face. She has anticipated this moment for what seems like an eternity.
It’s her team. Her time. Her chance to put the Mercury back on the map.
“I think every player knows when to turn it up,” she said.
Taurasi is talking fast again, the words tumbling into one another. But now you understand why.
She has somewhere to go.
And something to do.
COPYRIGHT 2007, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.