Brittney Griner returns to the court in Mercury preseason

AP Photo/Matt York

Take a breathe of fresh air, Mercury fans.

Brittney Griner returned to WNBA (preseason) action for the first time since the 2021 WNBA Finals, when Phoenix lost to Chicago.

“Hearing the national anthem – it definitely hit different,” Griner said. “Being here, right now, today… it means a lot.”

“Nikki Blue and I looked at each other and we just had chills,” second-year head coach Vanessa Nygaard said. “Many of you were here all of last year…I’m getting emotional right now…it’s like an absolute miracle…it’s giving me chills again.”

She received a warm welcome during her introduction:

Her assessment of her game tonight was simple: “Sh-t.”

While Griner put up 10 points and three rebounds (6/8 FT) in 17 minutes, she expects much more of herself moving forward.

“Guess there were a few more cobwebs than I thought,” Griner said. “I didn’t guard anybody today…first game back…The game in LA will look totally different…Coach [Nygaard] keeps telling me to give myself grace but that’s hard.”

Griner, along with Diana Taurasi (13 points, 5 assists), and the rest of the Mercury roster, are at the early stages of developing their chemistry.

“I think we’re at our best when we’re in transition,” point guard Moriah Jefferson said. “It’s really my job to make sure that I’m pushing the ball. We have to do better at getting early drag screens and things like that so we’re not slowing it down every possession and we’ll be a much better team than we are right now.”

Despite it being preseason, Nygaard demands a higher level of prowess on defense from her squad.

“I thought our defensive performance was not good,” Nygaard said. “We’ve been spending a lot of time on that and the carry-over was not great…we didn’t carry a hand, we didn’t shift well – lots of areas to improve and tune up.”

One thing to keep an eye on for the start of the season is sharpshooter Sophie Cunningham’s (13 points, 5/5 FG) health after she went down with a left knee injury:

Nygaard says Cunningham is in “good spirits” and will need further evaluation. 

As Griner prepares to tip-off the regular season, the fanbase has helped her ease back as well.

“It was good to be back on the home court,” Griner said. “Felt the love…I was happy with some of the shots that I took. The defense – I gotta do better.”

While the Sparks walked away with the 90-71 win, Phoenix will have its shot to get them right back in the season opener – Friday, May 19th in Los Angeles at 8 pm.

More sights and sounds from Griner’s return to the court: