PHOENIX – As Diana Taurasi officially signed a contract that will keep her with the Phoenix Mercury for another two years, it was easy to jump ahead a few months and imagine what might be, while also cherishing what has always been. A team that had been playoff contenders the last few years while not quite putting it together now has a chance at another deep playoff run with the return of its perennial All-Star.
Taurasi, a three-time WNBA champion, nine-time WNBA All-Star, two-time WNBA Finals MVP, 2009 WNBA MVP and all-time leading scorer for the WNBA, has spent her entire 16 seasons in Phoenix since the Mercury selected her No. 1 overall in the 2004 draft.
Now, at 38, she will be paid a supermax salary, the most of her domestic career, and likely end her storybook WNBA tenure with the same team and in the same city where the magic began.
“The minute I got drafted to Phoenix I knew it was a place I was going to be for a long time,” Taurasi said Tuesday. “To be able to be with an organization that you know is as loyal, as I think I’ve been to them, you don’t see that very often and that is a strong bond that I take very seriously.
“When they say my name, I want them to say ‘the Phoenix Mercury’ and vice versa” she added. ”I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Although Taurasi is one of the greatest players in the league and had several teams vying for her skills, she said she took very few phone calls from anyone besides the Mercury, who were the first to call.
“Throughout the whole offseason, I would let my mind wander. But at the end of the day, it always came back to Phoenix,” Taurasi said. “I really didn’t take any phone calls from anyone. There were a few phone calls in there but, you know, I’m in a serious relationship here.”
The love affair is mutual.
The Mercury treated Taurasi as an unrestricted free agent who had the means to go anywhere, which let Taurasi know they were serious about re-signing her. Within the first hour of free agency Taurasi was on a Zoom call with the Mercury reliving the memories of the past while discussing what the future could hold for this team and how Taurasi fit into that future.
The signing of Skylar Diggins-Smith before the start of last season had pundits referring to it as the creation of the next big three of Taurasi, Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner. But due to the madness of last season and Griner leaving the bubble early, the three have yet to find a rhythm together, something Taurasi looks forward to rectifying.
“We have to really go back in our memories and see the things that worked really well, and try to make them mesh, you know, to make sure to play to everyone’s strengths,” Taurasi said. “The times we’ve been able to be healthy and, on the court, we have as good a chance as anyone else to win a championship and I think that’s what I look forward to the most.”
Although Taurasi cherishes her tenure at Phoenix, it has not been all highlights. There have been five seasons of missed playoffs, two seasons partly missed due to injury and a five-year stint Taurasi describes as not knowing what was going on. Despite the ups and downs, her appetite for something more still burns.
“I want to keep adding. I’m not satisfied what we’ve done with, you know, personally, what I’ve done,” Taurasi said. “I think collectively as a franchise we want more and I think that’s why this is a special place.
“We’ve done a lot in 17 years, and I don’t think we’re done,” she added.
After the Mercury announced Taurasi’s return with a video depicting her career, support from fans and athletes soon followed.
Devin Booker, guard for the Phoenix Suns, tweeted a picture of the two embracing captioning it “Back home DT!!”
Phoenix Suns forward Frank Kaminsky spoke about how impressed he has always been with Taurasi and the way she is constantly studying the game. He said while he was injured last season, Taurasi would sit behind the Suns bench and ask him specifics about play calls and what they were running.
“She means so much to the Phoenix community. I know how much she loves it and how much we love her. I’m so happy she’s back,” Kaminsky said.” “Honestly in my book, she’s a G.O.A.T.”
He won’t have to go far to elbow bump with the Mercury’s Greatest of All Time. Taurasi is staying put.
“I didn’t want to go obviously anywhere else,” Taurasi said. “This is where I want to end my career.”