Reaction ranged from profane to philosophical Monday from the Phoenix Mercury regarding Diana Taurasi’s one-game suspension for striking San Antonio’s Dearica Hamby.
Taurasi will sit out Tuesday’s home game against New York (1-1), a team she scored 30 against last year in the WNBA playoffs. She will return for Saturday’s home game against Dallas. The Mercury (2-1) will start Leilani Mitchell in Taurasi’s place against the Liberty, whom she played for from 2008-13.
What initially was ruled a technical foul against Taurasi on Friday was changed by the WNBA office to a flagrant foul 2 carrying a mandatory suspension.
RELATED: Phoenix Mercury schedule 2017
Center Brittney Griner insisted on being quoted about the suspension being “b——t”, saying that neither she nor Chicago’s Cappie Pondexter were suspended last year for an incident in which both were ejected.
Mercury coach Sandy Brondello also believes the Taurasi penalty was too stiff. “She did obviously hit the girl but another player in a similar incident a few games before did the same thing but she wasn’t suspended. So to me it’s more let’s keep is consistent. It’s not just what Diana Taurasi does. That’s my biggest disappointment.”
Taurasi will be missing her eighth game since 2007 due to league/team suspension for a variety of reasons.
The Mercury’s Diana Taurasi married former teammate Penny Taylor this past Saturday.
USA TODAY Sports
“Diana plays hard and teams play her very physical,” Brondello said. “I supposed that’s what they need to do to slow her down. She’s a great player. I’m not going to curb her emotions because that’s one of her greatest strengths as well and what makes her special. Maybe these few days off will be good for because she needed it.”
Taurasi, 34, is averaging 11 points on 21.2 percent shooting, way off her career numbers (19.9 ppg, 43.7 percent FG). She is 145 points away from becoming the WNBA career scoring leader, which at current pace would take until mid-July to accomplish.
“Maybe it’s blessing in disguise,” Brondello said. “She’s tired coming back from Russia and obviously with the wedding. Maybe this could freshen her up a little bit and help as we move forward. She’s got no legs at the moment. Sometimes you need rest more than anything.”
Taurasi plays overseas in Russia during the WNBA off season on a team with Griner and Brondello as assistant coach. She returned and a week later was married May 13, the day before the season opener.
Mitchell has been coming off the bench but also playing some together with starting point guard Danielle Robinson. They are averaging a combined 21 points and 10.4 assists. With Shay Murphy out due to injury, the Mercury backup guards Tuesday are Yvonne Turner and Alexis Prince. Rookie Sophie Brunner also could play some on the perimeter.
“Obviously missing Diana will be a big hit to us,” Mitchell said. “We all have to do a little bit more. It’s not going to be one person replacing her. We all need to step up and bring a little more offense especially. I just go out and play my game, shoot my shots when I’m open. We’re not asking BG (Griner) to go out and score 40 points. Everyone just needs to be aggressive.”
Mitchell has 131 career starts including 26 with the Mercury in 2015. She was the league’s Most Improved Player in 2010, averaging 9.3 points and 3.8 assists. Last year, she sat out most of the season training with Australia for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
New York at Phoenix
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Mercury: C Brittney Griner is second in WNBA scoring at 23.3 ppg behind Seattle’s Jewell Loyd (26.0). G Danielle Robinson’s 6.7 assists per game is second in the league behind Chicago’s Cappie Pondexter (7.7). The Mercury were 1-2 against New York in the 2016 regular season then beat the Liberty 101-94 in a playoff second-round single elimination game at Madison Square Garden.
Liberty: The Liberty lost G Brittany Boyd for the season Friday when she suffered a torn Achilles in a game against Minnesota. G Sugar Rodgers is averaging 13.5 points and F Tina Charles 9.0 points and 7.0 rebounds. Charles had a 31-point game against the Mercury last season. New York beat San Antonio 73-64 before losing 90-71 to Minnesota. New York is coached by Bill Laimbeer, in his fifth season and 13th overall in the WNBA.