Earlier today, the Phoenix Mercury announced that Diana Taurasi will be out at least four weeks with a chest injury.
Per the press release, Taurasi sustained a fractured sternum in the game against Connecticut Sun on May 16th after a collision with Jonquel Jones. But in typical Taurasi fashion, she played the following two games on the 18th and 21st against the Washington Mystics and Sun, respectively.
The Mercury held a pre-scheduled media availability where questions about Taurasi flooded in.
Assistant Coach Chastity Melvin shared that Taurasi was "having trouble breathing a little bit" but continued to play through the two games following the injury. Melvin also stated that she is glad that Taurasi's fracture was caught early because it "could've been something worse."
Melvin touched on how as a team and coaching staff, it's important to show what each player is capable up and to have the "next one up" mentality. The coaching staff is really excited to see how Shey Peddy, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Megan Walker can show up and bring their high potential to the game tomorrow against the Las Vegas Aces.
Star center Brittney Griner, who has played with Taurasi the longest, had some really good insight on how the team is growing with Taurasi's loss.
"Definitely a joint effort...but it could be worse. Everybody has to bring a little bit more and an extra 10%."
The Mercury is not new to having star players out for injuries. Griner states that the team is very well equipped to handle these situations.
When Griner recounts the moment Taurasi had the collision with Jones, she states how she was super nervous.
"She hit the ground hard, I came up to her and then she went to try and sit up, grabbed her chest and had this pain on her face. I thought she was having a heart attack...I thought something was really really wrong."
Having the mentality of the "next person up" mentality is crucial when someone gets injured. Griner expressed how the day the team found out about the injury, it was "one of their best practices we've had."
"Our main leader is down, we have to pick it up. People are going to see us and 'oh wounded, going for the kill' but it's going to be different though. We have the good mentality and we'll be ready to go."
Griner feels extra pressure knowing that everyone is going to talk about how Taurasi is down. She acknowledges how all eyes are going to be on the game against the Aces tomorrow.
On helping other players get the mindset, she recalls how Diggins-Smith has encouraged increased communication and "over-talking" in order to help fill in the intensity and energy deficit that comes with Taurasi being on the floor.
Sophie Cunningham, who has intensity and traits that are near identical to Taurasi, acknowledged that there will be "highs and lows" within the season. She states that everyone will need to step up and work extra harder in order to make up for the loss of Taurasi.
Cunningham isn't surprised that Taurasi played two full games through the injury, pointing out her grit and toughness that she embodies. Cunningham states that Taurasi's mentality helps her get better on and off the court.
When Taurasi is on the sidelines, whether it be injured or on the bench, Cunningham states that she is still a coach, possibly more than Coach Brondello.
"Taurasi has the most elite basketball mind. She'll always give pointers and tell us what we should do on the court that we may be doing wrong."
Cunningham states that she's getting better everyday and is prepared for her increased role with Taurasi out. She is ready to show that she deserves to be out there playing.
On Cunningham's continuous energy without Taurasi being able to physically bring it on the court, "I'm not going to change...I'm going to own my role and make sure everyone is energized. I'm known for my spark off the bench...my dog mentality and feistiness on the court will never waiver."
Taurasi is averaging 15.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists. She is six points away from being the first WNBA player to hit 9,000 career points. #wnba #phoenix #phoenixmercury #mercury #taurasi #dianataurasi