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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Taurasi addresses a lost season

With five WNBA scoring titles and a pair of championships during her remarkable run with the Phoenix Mercury, it seems as if everything former UConn star Diana Taurasi touches turns to gold - until this year.

After attempting to play through a painful hip flexor injury and seeing 36 minutes of action in games against Tulsa and Los Angeles in late May, Taurasi did play another game with the Mercury until late August. When Taurasi suited up and played a starring role on the U.S. team's run to the Olympic gold medal, the critics were coming at Taurasi and the Mercury from all angles accusing Taurasi of bailing on her team and the Mercury hierarchy of holding her out so Phoenix would miss the playoffs and have a shot at drafting Brittney Griner or Elena Delle Donne in April's WNBA draft.

If the criticism was bothering Taurasi she did a nice job of hiding it.

"I wasn't sure if it was going to be my last one (Olympics) and I wasn't going to go in there hobbling and on one leg," Taurasi said. "I just wasn't going to do that.

"I could care less what people say, you know that. I have been in this league long enough at if you worry about that stuff you will drive yourself crazy."

Even with tonight's impressive performance on the road against the Eastern Conference leading Connecticut Sun, Phoenix is almost certainly going to be one of the four lottery teams.

Ann Meyers, the vice president of both the Phoenix Mercury and Phoenix Suns, was at Mohegan Sun Arena promoting her book "You Let Some Girl Beat You" and talked about the heat the Mercury has taken from those inside and outside of the league.

"It doesn't bother me," Meyers said. "You just have to let it roll off your back like a duck. I know what's true and I am always going to be along with (head coach) Corey Gaines and (Phoenix Mercury President and COO) Amber Cox concerned about our kids. People are going to say things but they don't always know what goes on behind the scenes, we know what's true our kids are hurt for crying out loud.

"Tamara Poole, our trainer, God bless her, she has just been incredible. She has worked to keep these guys coming back. Our season-ticket holders are frustrated and I know teams throughout the league are frustrated. Nobody feels sorry or thew Phoenix Mercury, we have won two WNBA championships and that is try when it happens to another team. You can't worry about what the others are saying. Does it happen to be that the draft and the kids that are coming out (are special)? Yeah but can you honestly look at our team and say we are honestly tanking it."

Not only has Taurasi missed 20 games but a torn ACL caused Penny Taylor to miss the entire season. Candice Dupree has missed 17 of the last 18 games with a knee injury which required surgery. Former UConn forward Charde Houston missed seven straight games with a knee injury and Nakia Sanford sat out four games with a knee injury of her own. Meyers is quick to defend Taurasi who took additional criticism when she missed the first three games after the Olympic break.

"Diana is the ultimate pro and she is all about her teammates," Meyers said. "You have seen that at Connecticut. Geno worked her hard and she challenged Geno. Their relationship is just magical, it really is. He gets the best out of her and she wants that too. She feeds off Geno. She didn't want to be hurt, nobody wants to be hurt. She is the ultimate team player, she makes everybody else better. Nobody worlks as hard a she does and she worked hard to get in shape.

"A lot of people in Phoenix were frustrated, a lot of people in the league were frustrated with Phoenix saying they are tanking the season. You miss Penny Taylor with an ACL and Diana Taurasi with a hip flexor and she certainly had to be ready for the Olympics and she is playing for us. Sammy Prahalis is hurt, Candice Dupree is out with knee surgery, Charde Houston out with knee surgery, Nakia Sanford was out for four games with a knee, Alexis Hornbuckle has not been completely healthy. In the history of the WNBA in 16 seasons no team has ever had the injuries we have had so for Diana Taurasi to come back and play as hard as she does, how do you fault her?"

Taurasi said she was not kidding when she said during a live television interview after the Olympic gold-medal game that she wants to be a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team although she joked that fellow three-time gold medalist and former UConn star Sue Bird wouldn't shake her hand when she attempted to have her shake on a deal to stick around until 2016.


"I'll be in my prime," Taurasi said of 2016." I have been playing USA Basketball since I was 17 that is a lot of years and going into London I wasn't really sure if I had another one in me."

However, Taurasi said after the gold-medal game that the first thing she thought about was being on the 2016 Olympic squad.

"Playing USA Basketball there is nothing like it I feel good and if things work out I would love to play on the team again," Taurasi said.

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