August 3, 2023 

Skylar Diggins-Smith claims Phoenix Mercury restricting access to facilities on maternity leave

Interim head coach Nikki Blue sidesteps question pregame

PHOENIX — The WNBA community awoke Thursday morning to a bombshell post on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter, from Phoenix Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith.

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Diggins-Smith, who is currently on maternity leave after having her second child, quoted a post from a user saying that it was “disgraceful” that the Mercury did not wish Diggins-Smith a happy birthday when she turned 33 on Wednesday.

Diggins-Smith responded, “They’re not gonna acknowledge me this year and it’s ok guys. We’re not affiliated unless it’s the checks….per management. I can’t even use the practice facility or any resources. But I still love the X-Factor [Phoenix fans]!!”

The six-time WNBA All-Star went on to say in a separate post that she is unable to use the team’s practice facility for massages, chiropractor visits, team chefs, or strength and conditioning.

The Next did not receive a response by the time this story was published to a request for comment from longtime general manager Jim Pitman, who is retiring after this season, and/or his recently hired replacement Nick U’Ren.

Interim head coach Nikki Blue was the first Phoenix official to address the media after Diggins-Smith’s accusations became public, speaking as part of league media obligations before the Mercury’s game against the Atlanta Dream. When The Next asked about Diggins-Smith’s claims, Blue repeated the line that Mercury officials — including Pitman and former head coach Vanessa Nygaard — have given seemingly every time they’ve been asked about the star guard:

“Skylar is on maternity leave right now,” Blue said. “And as we do with players on maternity leave, we give them their space.”

Blue then quickly pivoted the conversation to the historic moment that could happen on Thursday: Entering the Atlanta game, Mercury star Diana Taurasi was just 18 points away from becoming the first WNBA player in history to reach 10,000 career points.

“What I’m really excited about is just tonight. We’re focused and we want to go out there and have a good game against Atlanta,” Blue continued. “That’s primarily been our focus in the locker room. Our players are just excited for this night, for [Diana] and for us to get back on a roll.”

Diggins-Smith’s future with the Mercury has been uncertain, though she’s posted workout videos on social media in the past several weeks. She seemingly expressed her contentment not to play for Phoenix this season by posting, “I’m fine with being distanced…[because] now I can’t possibly be the villain anymore.”

Diggins-Smith is on the final year of a four-year, supermaximum salary contract that pays her $234,350 this season. She will become an unrestricted free agent when the calendar flips to 2024.


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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.

2 Comments

  1. RM Williams on August 6, 2023 at 12:21 pm

    Maybe SDS and Chennedy Carter can start their own team of disgruntled players. Of course, it is hard to take Carter seriously when she refers to herself in the third person. I’m sure there are others who can fill out the roster, provided SDS’s ego doesn’t take up the whole court.

  2. Mickeythered on August 9, 2023 at 2:32 pm

    Toxic, and unfortunate, as she is a great player.

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