PHOENIX — Diana Taurasi says she is constantly heartbroken over the situation her Phoenix Mercury teammate Brittney Griner faces and suggested it may give WNBA players second thoughts about playing in Russia.
Taurasi spoke to The Arizona Republic about the uncertainty of her longtime teammate’s return from prison in Russia during her appearance Saturday in Mesa, Arizona at a dedication for a youth basketball court in partnership with the late Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation.
Griner’s appeal of the nine-year prison sentence from her drug possession conviction was denied on Oct. 25. She has been in custody in Russian since February.
“We’re heartbroken. Every day, heartbroken,’ Taurasi said. ‘Our sole energy is to get her home as soon as possible, as safe as possible. And it’s heartbreaking to think that she’s stuck in prison somewhere in Russia, a place where we gave a lot of our energy and a lot of our effort to make sure they have the best teams in the world. We wake up every day sad, but with a lot of hope that it’s gonna happen soon.’
Griner was been deemed ‘wrongfully detained’ by the U.S. government since her arrest at a Moscow airport on Feb. 17 when she was found with cannabis oil vape cartridges at the security checkpoint.
Griner was in Russia playing during the WNBA’s offseason for Moscow-based UMMC Ekaterinburg women’s basketball team. She has played there since 2014, and the organization had paid her $1 million per year. Griner signed a three-year deal with the Mercury for $664,544 in 2020. That’s comprised of $215,000 for 2021, $221,450 for 2022, and is slated for the WNBA player maximum $227,900 next season.
Taurasi also played for UMMC Ekaterinburg from 2012 to 2017.
“It’s another factor you have to look at when you’re thinking about going to play in a different country for sure,’ Taurasi said.
Griner, 31, and Taurasi won the 2014 WNBA title together five years after Griner entered the league from Baylor.
Taurasi spoke about Griner’s charitable impact in the Phoenix community, including her annual Heart and Soul Shoe drive that’s helped nearly 2000 of the Valley’s underprivileged since 2016.
“There are people that play in markets and never do a thing,’ Taurasi told The Arizona Republic. ‘BG’s done more in Phoenix than most people do in a whole lifetime in a city because that’s who BG is. She’s a carer, she’s a lover, she brings people together. That’s the special attribute that she has besides being a great basketball player. She’s the most loving person I’ve ever around.”
The 10-time All-Star also said she already is preparing to return to the Mercury for next season, in an interview with Arizona’s Family TV channel’s Nick King.
‘You know, I started working out, so, the minute I start working out, that means I’m all in,’ she said in that interview. ‘I’m ready to bring another championship here.’
Taurasi, 40, is an unrestricted free agent entering next year.
The WNBA’s all-time leading scorer has led the Mercury to three titles in 2007, 2009, and 2014.
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