Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi is still looking for ways to improve going into her 17th WNBA season, but she feels confident about continuing to build chemistry with superstar teammates Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith.
"Even at this point, I feel like there's still room for growth in a lot of areas in my game and a lot of things that I want to do," Taurasi said in the Mercury's video call with media on Thursday. "Especially on this team when you look at our roster. Having BG [Griner] back, having Skylar, a full offseason and a full training camp, bringing in [newly acquired guard] Kia Nurse ... you just see all these pieces.
"And if we can all get on the same track and working towards the same goal, I think we can do some special things this summer. But that's just all nonsense if we don't come in and put the work in every day."
The Mercury have won three WNBA titles, the last coming in 2014. They traded for Diggins-Smith before the 2020 season and she quickly meshed well in the backcourt. Taurasi averaged 18.7 points and 4.5 assists in the bubble last season in Bradenton, Florida, while Diggins-Smith was at 17.7 and 4.2.
Phoenix obtained guard Nurse and forward Megan Walker, both former UConn players like Taurasi, in an offseason trade with New York. Another former Huskies standout, guard Bria Hartley, is working her way back after a knee injury cut short the strong season she was having last year. And third-year forward Brianna Turner, a former Notre Dame standout like Diggins-Smith, could step forward as a bigger offensive presence this season.
Taurasi said balance will be a key. But having a superstar core of her, Diggins-Smith and Griner together for an entire season could be huge for the Mercury.
"The great thing, we have very unselfish stars here," Diggins-Smith said. "We have five potential All-Stars in the lineup. Everybody brings something different to the table. There's room for everybody to eat; you don't care who gets the credit.
"We've had a lot of time together in the offseason, at least Dee and I. We're all capable, we're all a threat when we catch the basketball."
Griner, who like Taurasi is a former No. 1 draft pick of the Mercury, had good numbers in her 12 games last season (17.7 points, 7.5 rebounds) but left the bubble in late August. Phoenix went on to make the playoffs without her, losing 80-79 in the second round to Minnesota.
Griner took time off and went overseas to Russia in January, and is coming off winning EuroLeague and Russian League titles with UMMC Ekaterinburg. Griner has spoken about needing space from basketball to help her from both a mental and physical health standpoint.
"Honestly, [it] was my first break I've had since college," said Griner, who led Baylor to an NCAA title during her career there from 2009-13. "It's been just go, go, go, go, go. I hate that it had to come in the middle of the [WNBA] season last year. But it was such a good reset and a good moment for me to just be able to breathe and rest and get myself together fully. Not rushed trying to do it, either."
Taurasi can relate to the WNBA and overseas grind after her many years of doing the same thing. But she's glad to have Griner back with the Mercury.
"There's no question that we're a better team when she's here," Taurasi said. "We all know what BG can do, and when she comes here focused and ready to go, she's the most unstoppable force in our game. She looks amazing after her Russian season. She looks strong and fit, and it's up to BG what she wants to do. When she's on her game, she makes us one of the best teams."
Griner was in her second WNBA season when the Mercury won their 2014 championship; she suffered an eye injury and wasn't able to play in the clinching game against Chicago.
"I definitely have, like, a huge burn underneath my ass because I didn't get to play in the final game [that year], because I had that detached retina," Griner said. "I want to get back to the Finals and play in the very last game and win."
Taurasi turns 39 in June, Diggins-Smith will be 31 in August and Griner 31 in October. All feel that the Mercury have championship potential, which is meaningful to them at this stage in their careers.
"One of the things about the bubble that was so interesting is that it was a sprint," Taurasi said of the 22-game schedule in 2020. "The last month of the season, I really felt individually I finally got back to feeling really good on the court, really confident as a team. Hopefully this year, [with] more of a normal schedule, we can continue to build weekly and monthly.
"I still come in to every training camp feeling like a rookie. Every training I want to prove myself, every practice. So that hasn't changed for me. If anything, it's heightened knowing you don't get to play this game forever."