Phoenix Mercury fans optimistic despite season full of adversity

Without Griner, the Mercury need to win a game in Vegas if they want to play at the Footprint...
Without Griner, the Mercury need to win a game in Vegas if they want to play at the Footprint Center again this season.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Aug. 14, 2022 at 7:55 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Phoenix Mercury played this whole WNBA season in the shadows of Brittney Griner’s imprisonment in Russia. Throw in late-season absences from their other two All-Stars, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi, and the deck was stacked against them to make the playoffs.

Still, the Mercury play on. And their fans are optimistic heading into the playoffs. “I’m hoping we get Taurasi back,” Phoenix resident Deb King said. “And hey, we can make things better.”

“I’m very proud of them,” Tempe resident Cynthia Morton added. “They’re very resilient, they fight very hard, and they work for everything they get.”

Come Wednesday, it’s a new season. And no matter which Mercury players take the court against Las Vegas, there’s a sense that this team is playing with house money. “It’s challenging when your three best players just aren’t around,” Queen Creek resident Michael Romero said. “It’s a credit to all the coaches and the team in general for coming together.”

Of course, one absence looms larger than the rest. It’s almost been six months since Griner was detained in Russia. “Man, I wish BG was here to enjoy her team as a whole going through everything,” King said.

Griner’s now facing a nine-year sentence after being found guilty on drug charges last week. “Everybody’s thinking about her,” a Mercury fan named Julie said. “And hoping that she’ll be home soon.”

The Mercury continued to show solidarity for Griner through video tributes, rally towels, and a sign where fans could write messages to their imprisoned star. “She’s in a tough place right now,” Phoenix resident Karl Wilson said. “And we’re all pulling for her here in the US.”

Without Griner, the Mercury need to win a game in Vegas if they want to play at the Footprint Center again this season. But if there’s one thing fans have learned from this year, never say never when it comes to the Mercury. “If you’re in sports and you play, you’re always believing you can,” Romero said.

“They have a bunch that an come out there and carry on,” King added. “Because some teams don’t have a bench that can follow up like we do.”

Tip-off for Wednesday’s game against Las Vegas is at 7 p.m. on ESPN.