July 22, 2021 

Diana Taurasi expects to return for Nigeria opener

Five-time Olympian revealed to Bird she would carry U.S. flag

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Diana Taurasi hugs Sue Bird. (photo via USA Basketball Twitter)

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.”

Written by Scott Mammoser

Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.

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