May 20, 2022 

Questions from Taurasi, Diggins-Smith argument hover over Phoenix Mercury

Diggins-Smith missing on Thursday, return still unknown

PHOENIX — On Sunday, the Phoenix Mercury’s duo of Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith teamed up to topple the Seattle Storm. On Tuesday against the Las Vegas Aces, their on-court altercation may have toppled the Mercury themselves. A heated exchange between Taurasi and Diggins-Smith remained largely unexplained on Thursday, following a 94-84 loss to the Dallas Wings.

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To hear head coach Vanessa Nygaard tell it, there wasn’t just one event but rather, a culmination of events. More specifically, the status of teammate Brittney Griner.

“There’s a lot going on and even more going on with the BG (Brittney Griner) situation,” Nygaard said on Tuesday night. “That isn’t something that goes away for us.” Taurasi and Diggins-Smith have played with the seven-time all-star for a number of seasons. That same night, Shey Peddy also spoke about that emotion when talking about Griner.

“There’s not really much we can say about the situation,” Peddy said. “But obviously it’s affecting each and every one of us individually differently.”

However, the dynamic between Taurasi and Diggins-Smith, the two most important players on this roster, appears to run well beyond joint concern over Griner. Nygaard explained Tuesday that the incident between Taurasi and Diggins-Smith is part of the game. “We’re not the first team to have any kind of arguments or disagreements on the bench,” Nygaard said. “They play hard, they play with passion. This is the game that they love.”

It was reported that Diggins-Smith missed Thursday’s game against the Dallas Wings with a non-COVID illness. Diggins-Smith was not with the team for the game. Nygaard, when pressed during pregame Thursday night said: “It’s an internal matter within the team. I don’t know what else you want me to say about it.”

Will Diggins-Smith be back soon?

It is unclear when Diggins-Smith will be back, but they certainly needed her in Thursday’s shootout loss to Dallas. Arike Ogunbowale dropped 37 points, two points short of her career high. Tina Charles, Diamond DeShields and Taurasi all exceeded double figures in scoring, but it wasn’t enough. Over the course of the game, there were two separate exchanges between the two teams, both involving Wings forward Marina Mabrey. She got into two incidents with Taurasi and DeShields. After that, Taurasi explained the shift of energy. “There’s always this inner competitive spirit that a group has to find and we’re finding that little by little,” Taurasi said.

It was an encouraging night for DeShields, who posted a season-high 22 points and attacked the basket with ease. “I haven’t really had a game where I felt that good in a really long time,” DeShields said. “It was a relief, despite the loss, to feel myself, to get to the rim. That’s something that I hadn’t done in a long time.”

Depending on when Diggins-Smith returns, Phoenix may need more from DeShields in the days ahead, with a visit to Las Vegas on Saturday. The Mercury head coach knows how important it will be to get Diggins-Smith back.

“Sky is a very intense and aggressive on-ball defender and would have helped us tonight,” Nygaard said. “We definitely hope to have her back on Saturday.”

Written by Hayden Cilley

Hayden Cilley covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. He is currently pursuing a bachelors degree in Sports Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

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