Phoenix G Diana Taurasi is scheduled to play her first game against Seattle at 7 p.m. Thursday at KeyArena. But until you see her there — even after a morning shoot-around — who knows?
That’s a result of a series of late scratches to begin the second part of the WNBA season after the London Olympic Games. First it was rest then Taurasi missed her first post-Olympic break game at KeyArena due to having her wisdom teeth removed.
Thursday will be her second game of the season, previously not playing since May due to a hip flexor injury. She scored 19 points in a loss to Indiana on Saturday, the Mercury’s 10th consecutive loss.
“We’ve been running the same stuff for a long time so it felt like I never left,” Taurasi told reporters. “It’s been a couple long months but I felt good out there.”
Phoenix has been outscored by 15.5 points during its skid. It’s a team-record downfall, landing the Mercury (4-19) last in Western Conference standings. The Storm (11-13) is fourth, six games ahead of Tulsa for the final playoff berth.
“You win some, you lose some,” said Taurasi, whose All-Star teammates Penny Taylor, Candice Dupree, and Charde Houston are all out due to knee injuries. “At this point, we really want to make sure we get better every single day. Is that necessarily gonna be winning games? You know, maybe not.”
Despite the Mercury’s record, Taurasi with a hand tied behind her back is a threat. A prolific scorer, she’ll grab most of the Storm’s defensive attention. But Seattle gets to counter with a healthy, complete roster.
All-Star Lauren Jackson will play her first game of the season against the Mercury. Ann Wauters (Achilles) and Tina Thompson (knee) responded well after playing in Sunday’s win against New York and are ready to go, too.
“They’ll be a better basketball team without question,” Storm coach Brian Agler said of Phoenix with Taurasi. “We anticipate her playing.”
There are four other games on Thursday.
Washington (5-19) is the next team that could take advantage of the ongoing drama in Atlanta. The Dream (12-13) are losing a grip on its once expected playoff berth after the indefinite suspension of Angel McCoughtry.
The petulant All-Star was reportedly given a guideline of behavior to follow in order to play the remainder of the season, but who knows what to make of that.
It’s the second game of the season for former Storm F Iziane Castro Marques for the Mystics. Signed as a free agent, she’s was kicked off her Brazilian national team for reportedly allowing her boyfriend into her room overnight.
Connecticut (18-6) clinched the first playoff berth in the East and looking for a sweep against host San Antonio this season. The Silver Stars (17-7) are an impressive 9-1 at home.
New York (9-15) is back at home after an arduous road trip. Not that the schedule gets easier. They’ll host Indiana (15-8). The Fever are on a three-game win streak — 5-1 since the Olympic break — and 2.5-games behind the Sun for the Eastern Conference title. So, there’s oodles of motivation.
The Liberty (9-15) are trying to edge Chicago (9-15) for the fourth and final playoff berth.
Lastly, Los Angeles (19-6) travels to Tulsa (5-19) for a matchup that was billed as Australian Liz Cambage’s return.
“I think she definitely wants to be in our league and in Tulsa,” First-year Tulsa coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “But I think with our situation this year and her youth, you see with most of veteran players that they play in the Olympics and they’re back. I think she’s still learning how to come back.”
With Cambage remaining in her native land, the Shock will most likely be the next team steamrolled by the Sparks. L.A. is on a league-best nine-game win streak and is much better than the squad that needed flashy plays from G Kristi Toliver to defeat Tulsa earlier in the season.
Toliver is averaging 23.0 points during the Sparks’ current win streak. She’s also made 16 of 25 three-pointers in the four Sparks games since the Olympic break.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Phoenix G Diana Taurasi reacts after a shot by NBAE/Getty Images