July 22, 2021
Diana Taurasi expects to return for Nigeria opener
Five-time Olympian revealed to Bird she would carry U.S. flag
Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.
On the eve of the Tokyo Opening Ceremony, Diana Taurasi revealed that she expects to be ready for Team USA’s initial game with Nigeria. The five-time Olympian is dealing with a hip injury and has not played since the Phoenix Mercury’s game on July 3. The 39-year-old suffered a fractured sternum and missed four weeks of the WNBA season earlier this spring.
“I’m getting better every day,” Taurasi said. “I touched the court for the last two days, so that’s definitely a good sign. I am hopeful, and every day, it’s building up. When you haven’t played for a while, there is some protocol for getting back, but I am checking all of the boxes, and hopefully, I will be ready for the first game against Nigeria.”
It should help Taurasi’s rest that the Nigeria game does not tip off until Tuesday (12:40 a.m. ET/9:40 p.m. PT Monday). In the past, Olympic group play in basketball was five games, alternating each day between the women and men, and this year, there are only three games. Team USA continues to play Japan on July 30 and France Aug. 2.
“We know Japan and how much they improved in the past decade,” Taurasi said. “I know the synergy in how they work and how they pace the offense with threes. That score in Rio (101-64 in the quarterfinals), doesn’t reflect how hard that game was. They are hard to guard in motion in the way they shoot the three. They are dangerous; they’ve been getting better every year, and this is their time.”
Taurasi also mentioned that when Geno Auriemma coached the national team in London and Rio, it was a more guard-oriented game plan, focusing on spacing the floor and shooting the three. With Dawn Staley as the new coach, her philosophy is more post-dominated.
In addition, Taurasi said U.S. team director Carol Callan gave her the honor of notifying Sue Bird that she would be the U.S. flag bearer for the opening ceremonies. Taurasi made the announcement prior to practice in front of the team and that was a difficult secret for her to keep.
“No fans changes the whole dynamic of the opening ceremonies,” Taurasi added. “When you walk in and there is 100,000 people there, shows and fireworks. It will be different, but just as special, knowing Sue is going to be one of the flag bearers. For us, that is an amazing thing to experience. We are looking forward to it.”