May 1, 2023 

Brittney Griner’s return brings the good vibes as the Phoenix Mercury open camp

Nygaard felt Griner's first official day back was 'phenomenal'

The mood at the first day of the Phoenix Mercury’s training camp day on Sunday was overwhelmingly positive. And it’d be hard not to understand why.

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Having Brittney Griner back after she spent most of 2022 wrongfully detained in a Russian prison appeared to uplift head coach Vanessa Nygaard as well as players.

“It’s a miracle,” Nygaard said. “Let’s not forget. I was just so happy to see her today. I welcomed her back today. I almost cried. She’s great. She’s a dominant player. She’s unguardable. And she also has such a great spirit about her. So, lots of positives having her back with us.”

Mercury guard Diana Taurasi echoed her coach.

“She’s easy going,” Taurasi said. “Nothing never gets BG low. So to have that lightness is really nice back here.”

Griner herself said it was “so good” being back at training camp. She talked about how she felt somewhat like a rookie because the last time she suited up for Phoenix Nygaard was an assistant coach for the Las Vegas Aces.

Phoenix guard Sophie Cunningham said it was “absolutely amazing” to have Griner back due to “her vibe, her smile, her warmth and her experience.”

As for Griner’s progress on the floor, Nygaard shed some light as to where the seven-time All-Star is in her process of getting back to basketball shape after such a long time away from the game.

“We’ve been progressing throughout the offseason,” Nygaard said. “We had a 100-day plan to get her back to today. So it was 100 days to today. She was super diligent in that work. And she was able to go full through practice today. So we’ll continue to just push her and I think it’s as she can tolerate but she did phenomenal today, I thought.”

While the only open portion of practice was basic shooting drills on Sunday, it looked as though Griner was at least somewhat back to her old self as she threw down a ferocious jam before talking to the media.

As for what she thinks she needs to work on in training camp, Griner said it is conditioning. However, she did confirm she will on the floor May 19 when the Mercury open their season on the road at the Los Angeles Sparks.

“We’re going to be ready,” Griner said. “We’re going to get going. It’ll be fun. I’m sure it’s going to be just a lot just being back at it. I’m looking forward to our home game though. Every game matters but I’m really looking forward to that home game, being in front of the X-factor.”

Taurasi responds to Griner’s “fossil” quip

In her press conference Thursday, Griner jokingly called Taurasi, who will turn 41 in June, a “walking fossil.”

On Sunday, Taurasi got the chance to respond to her teammate’s playful jab.

“At least I’m not the one who looks like a 40-year-old out there,” Taurasi said. “Ageism is very appropriate these days so I’ll take it. The beauty about that is we’re all going to get old.”

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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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