Brittney Griner Balling Out In WNBA Return

Brittney Griner Balling Out In WNBA Return

Prior to May 19, Brittney Griner had not played in the WNBA since October 2021. Griner had been arrested in Russia in February 2022 on drug charges and spent the 2022 season in a Russian prison. However, the veteran center returned to the United States via a prisoner swap in December 2022. Despite fears that Griner might sit out the 2023 season, she made it clear that she would play.

Griner rejoined a Phoenix Mercury team in a state of flux. The team finished 15-21 in 2022, their second losing season in the last four years. However, they still entered the playoffs as the eight-seed but were swept in the first round. It was a disappointing decline from their Finals appearance in 2021. With Griner's return, there were high hopes that the Mercury could bounce back. They were named among the title contender conversation, if not title favorites due to the superteams that had formed in Las Vegas and New York.

Griner's Hot But The Mercury Are Not

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MAY 21: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury reacts after hitting a three-point shot against the Chicago Sky during the second half of the WNBA game at Footprint Center on May 21, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

A grueling and unimaginable year away from the court appears to have had little effect on Griner's game. Through the Mercury's first two games of the season, Griner has 45 points, 16 rebounds, and 8 blocks. Furthermore, she recorded a double-double against the Chicago Sky on May 21 (25 points, 10 rebounds). The problem is that Griner is really the only player in Phoenix hooping hard.

The Mercury are 0-2 after losses to two rebuilding teams in the Sparks and Sky. By comparison, the Mercury have the fifth-best odds to win the WNBA title this season. There are signs of life in Phoenix, but they have simply been outplayed in their first two games. The Mercury are in win-now mode, trading a lot of 2023 capital to build a team around Griner and Diana Taurasi. However, that team has simply not come together through the opening games of the season. They will look to turn things around against the Minnesota Lynx on May 25.



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