June 27, 2023 

Skylar Diggins-Smith’s return to the court remains a mystery

'We know as much as you'

Skylar Diggins-Smith has returned to the gym but remains on maternity leave as her team, the Phoenix Mercury, is 2-10 and moved on from head coach Vanessa Nygaard on Sunday.

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A video surfaced on former Mercury guard Bridget Pettis‘ Instagram last week of her rebounding for Diggins-Smith.

Diggins-Smith, who told Essence Magazine in May she was not in a hurry to get back on the court and was focused on enjoying the time with her second child, looked solid in the video. However, members of the Phoenix Mercury did not provide an update on when Diggins-Smith could return to the floor.

“She’s on maternity leave,” said Mercury general manager Jim Pitman on Monday.

When asked if he would like to see Diggins-Smith play for the team this season, Pitman did not provide an answer and instead reiterated that Diggins-Smith is “on maternity leave right now.”

Before Saturday’s loss to the Seattle Storm, Phoenix forward Sophie Cunningham was asked if she had spoken to Diggins-Smith and if she would like to see the six-time All-Star back on the court with the Mercury this season.

Cunningham did not say whether she had spoken to Diggins-Smith but did praise her teammate.

“I think that she’s one of the top players in the whole league and when you’re done having a child, who knows how long it takes your body to get back?” Cunningham said. “But who knows? It’s up in the air. We know as much as you. And so that’s that.”

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It was reported by ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss before the season began that Diggins-Smith and teammates did not get along last season. Diggins-Smith, who was an All-Star in 2022, also quoted a tweet with a video of Nygaard saying the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game would not be an All-Star game without Diana Taurasi with a clown emoji.

It is unknown with Nygaard out and Nikki Blue taking over the reigns as head coach, if Diggins-Smith’s desire to return has changed.

When speaking to the media Monday for the first time since being named interim head coach, Blue did not go into much more detail on Diggins-Smith than Pitman.

“As of right now, Skylar’s still on maternity leave,” Blue said. “So we like to respect our players’ privacy. And so no, I have not reached out to her. She’s on maternity leave. And that’s just our protocol here.”

Center Brittney Griner spoke to the media Monday and was asked if she would like to see Diggins-Smith play for Phoenix this season. Griner responded to the question saying, “above my pay grade.” She did say Diggins-Smith texted her Sunday about her All-Star Game selection as a starter on Sunday.

It is unclear what the future of Diggins-Smith with the Phoenix Mercury is moving forward. She would definitely help the struggling, 2-10 Mercury team. The 2022 All-WNBA First Team guard averaged 19.7 points per game last year before leaving the team late in the season for personal reasons.

If Diggins-Smith is ready post-pregnancy to play basketball, she could try to help turn the Mercury around. And then there’s this date to watch for, too: the Aug. 7 trade deadline.

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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