Mercury set to open season with Griner detained in Russia

Published: May. 6, 2022 at 1:06 PM MST|Updated: May. 6, 2022 at 9:15 PM MST
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PHOENIX (AP) — Missing star center Brittney Griner, the Phoenix Mercury open the season at home against the Las Vegas Aces on Friday night. As the Mercury and the rest of WNBA move forward in the 2022 season, Griner is nearing the three-month mark of her detention in Russia, with no timetable for her release. Griner was detained on Feb. 17 after authorities at the Moscow airport said they found vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from cannabis in her luggage, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

The WNBA will honor Griner with a floor decal with her initials on her No. 42 in arenas across the league as she continues to be detained.

A Moscow court announced nearly two months ago that Griner’s arrest would be extended until May 19. Griner has played with the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2015 during the Mercury’s offseason.

Griner’s teammates have been outspoken about her detainment. One of the teammates eagerly waiting for her return is Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, who says the season will be played for Griner. “We love you BG. We love your family, and we’re just going to keep rocking until you get back here baby,” said Diggins-Smith. “Dedicate the season to her and play for her. We haven’t forgotten about her, and we’re going to continue to fight.”

Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard said Griner’s has been in all the team’s thoughts. “That’s their friend that’s wrongfully imprisoned in another country. So it’s top of their mind.”

Congressman Greg Stanton also spoke about Griner’s detainment. “It is so sad that one of the greatest players on planet earth, who belongs on this court, is instead languishing in a Russian jail,” he said.

The 31-year-old has won two Olympic gold medals with the U.S., a WNBA championship with the Mercury and a national championship at Baylor. She is a seven-time All-Star.

Arizona’s Family contributed to this report. Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.