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Dispatches from Mercury session

Taurasi: Turner could be Mercury’s “wild card”

When Diana Taurasi underwent back surgery in late April, the Mercury’s chances of returning to the WNBA semifinals took a hit.The team could be without the contributions of the league’s career leader in scoring for the first two months of the season. But there is a newcomer on the roster that Taurasi thinks can help fill in the gaps in production meantime. Enter rookie Brianna Turner—the No. 11 overall selection in the 2019 WNBA Draft. Turner impressed in the Mercury’s season-opening loss to Seattle and Taurasi labeled her “probably the wild card” for the team this season. The praise means a lot to Turner.“It’s really exciting. DT’s been such a help,” Turner said at Thursday’s practice. “Even being hurt, she’s been such a help. So I can only imagine when she’s back on the court how much help she’s going to be to us.”Coach Sandy Brondello agreed that, with time, Turner can be a contributor, but she was also  quick to say that “this is not college ball.” True, but without Taurasi—who led the team in scoring last season, averaging 20.7 points a game—help from Turner would be a big plus. Friday, the Mercury will get to see if the “wild card” can help the Mercury deal a winning hand. 
— Parth Upadhyaya

No Taurasi, but Lyttle’s return could be good news

As the Phoenix Mercury practiced Thursday for Friday night’s home opener on Friday against the Las Vegas Aces, a very important observer looked on–Diana Taurasi. Sidelined after back surgery, the Mercury’s star player spent time on the bike, did crunches, and encouraged the younger players. mentoring the younger players from afar. “She’s slowly getting there,” coach Sandy Brondello said of Taurasi. “She’s working extremely hard, that’s why she’s the best player in the world … This is killing her not being out there. I hope sooner rather than later, but we need to make sure she’s 100 percent healthy.”Another player who’s not yet 100 percent is power forward Sancho Lyttle, who’s recovering from a torn left ACL last summer. Lyttle sat out the team’s opener but Brondello expressed optimism she could see some time Friday.That would be welcomed against a loaded Aces team that will be at full strength, led by 2018 MVP candidate Liz Cambage making her team debut. “That makes them even harder to guard,” Brondello said of the presence of the 6-8 Cambage. “That’s a great challenge for us, we want that.”
— Clevis Murray

Griner, Bonner step up with Taurasi out

A back injury is keeping star guard Diana Taurasi off the court for the Mercury’s home opener against the Las Vegas Aces, but her impact is still being felt. With Taurasi out, DeWanna Bonner and Brittney Griner have taken on larger roles. In the Phoenix season opener against the Seattle Storm, Bonner and Griner were the only two Mercury players to score in double digits. Bonner led the way with 31 points and Griner had with 18.“We’re definitely going to take a couple more shots than we normally would,” Griner said. “That’s what D (Taurasi) has been telling us.” The Mercury also will be expecting larger contributions from the their four rookies, who combined for just 3 points in 38 minutes against Seattle. Bonner said she thinks the quartet is ready. “They didn’t seem nervous at all (against Seattle),” she said. “When they get more of an opportunity, they’ll be ready.”Coach Sandy Brondello said Friday would be the perfect time to show that readiness. “We have the best fans in the WNBA,” she said. “We want to make sure we are protecting this home court.”
— Damichael Cole

Mercury will ring in the new (4 rookies) in home opener

It will be a new-look Phoenix team taking the floor Friday night, as for the first time since 1999 the Mercury head to their home opener with four rookies on the roster. “I think it’s still setting in,” first-round pick Brianna Taylor said about the opportunity for her and fellow rookies Arica Carter, Alanna Smith and Sophie Cunningham. “Just seeing all the fans out here and going to different events and people being like ‘I love the Mercury’–it’s really exciting.” It’s not just fans who are excited. Mercury star Brittney Griner said that Taylor, a three-time ACC defensive player of the year at Notre Dame, brings “a lot of athleticism” to the Mercury and that she has great expectations for her new teammate. “When she gets settled in … I think she will definitely be the X-Factor,” Griner said. As for Taylor, she is looking forward to playing with fellow rookie Carter. The two have played against each other throughout their college careers, with Carter at Louisville and Taylor at Notre Dame, both ACC schools. “I feel like our personalities have clicked,” Taylor said of her and Carter. “She’s one of my good friends.” Fans will get a chance to see the new faces on Friday.
— Madisen Carter