February 26, 2024 

3 takeaways from Kahleah Copper’s and Natasha Cloud’s Phoenix Mercury introductions

Cloud: ’Phoenix is that new team that is investing into not only their organizations but into their players both on and off the court’

When new Phoenix Mercury guards Kahleah Copper and Natasha Cloud were introduced to the media last week, one similarity stood out in the two press conferences.

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Copper also cleared up the elephant in the room about her move to Phoenix, and Cloud confirmed an assumption that could have been made about why she chose the Mercury.

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Copper and Cloud excited about Mercury’s commitment to player experience

The parallel between the two media sessions was an appreciation for how much majority owner Mat Ishbia and team brass are investing in the WNBA.

Despite having a state-of-the-art practice facility they shared with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, the WNBA team announced plans for a new, Mercury-specific practice facility in October. The new facility, set to open at some point in 2024, will mean no more working around the Suns’ schedule for practice times and will make Phoenix one of three WNBA markets with its own practice facility.

Cloud, who comes to the Valley after spending all eight of her WNBA seasons with the Washington Mystics, discussed how the investment being made in the league by the Mercury led to her decision to sign with Phoenix.

“It was everything,” Cloud said. “From top to bottom Mat, [general manager] Nick [U’Ren], [head coach] Nate [Tibbetts], the front office, [assistant general manager] Monica [Wright Rogers] — you could tell how hungry they are to, in a sense, rebuild and really do this thing the right way and invest and be one of those top teams.

“I think everyone talks about … Brooklyn and Vegas, but Phoenix is that new team that is investing into not only their organizations but into their players both on and off the court. That was such an enticing thing for me. With moving, I wanted to be a part of that investment and that passion that a front office has for making their team a winning team.”

Copper, who joined the Mercury via a reported requested trade with the Chicago Sky, shared that she has not received a commitment like Phoenix has made to the WNBA in her career so far.

“I’m super excited,” Copper said. “Something I’ve never experienced. And I think it’s important to invest in women. Invest in women, and you see the results that come out of it. People want to play there. People want to come and be a part of something special like that.

“But like I said, it’s something I’ve never experienced. So seeing those plans and seeing what’s in the works, I’m excited to be able to be there.”

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Copper clears up the 2021 WNBA Finals beef

Knowing the history of Copper and the Mercury, one may wonder whether she will be able to jell with the team.

In 2021, Phoenix and Chicago met in the WNBA Finals. In Game 2, Copper and Mercury forward Sophie Cunningham got into a physical altercation that ended with Copper standing over Cunningham.

Copper said that despite what went down in the 2021 championship series, she had no hesitation coming to Phoenix.

“No,” Copper said. “That’s how it’s supposed to be, right? Like, it was the finals. It was a championship on the line. You expect nothing less. So that’s in the past. And we here now.”

U’Ren echoed Copper.

“No hesitation,” he said. “One thing I love about many of the players we both have and have acquired is their competitiveness. I don’t think you win at a high level without top-level competitors, and any chance you get to add a competitor like that, we’re going to jump at. And I think that competitors love playing with fellow competitors. … I think it’ll work out great.”

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Cloud confirms Toliver played role in her choice

Earlier this offseason, the Mercury named longtime WNBA player Kristi Toliver associate head coach.

Cloud and Toliver played four seasons together for the Washington Mystics. In 2019, they helped Washington to its first and only WNBA title to date.

Cloud spoke about how Toliver’s presence in Phoenix led to her landing in the desert.

“She’s been my OG for years,” Cloud said. “We played together for years. And she’s really invested into me over the last few years of really teaching me how to tap into my water. So we’ve really created a deeper bond, deeper connection. And I remember at one point last year, I was like, ‘I will play for you any day.’ So now … full circle moment and go to Phoenix together, start a new chapter off together. It’s really comforting to me. I needed some bit of comfort with this big of a move.”

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Written by Jesse Morrison

Jesse Morrison covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. A native of Roanoke, Va., Jesse moved to Arizona in 2017 to attend the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, graduating in 2021 with a degree in sports journalism. Outside of The Next, Jesse works for Arizona Sports, co-hosting an Arizona State podcast, producing a radio show and writing for their website.

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