Diana Taurasi to return for 16th WNBA season after Mercury's early playoff exit

Ben Weinrib
Yahoo Sports Contributor

The Phoenix Mercury suffered an early exit in the WNBA playoffs on Thursday, but it won't be the last time fans see legend Diana Taurasi suit up.

After dropping a single-elimination game against the Chicago Sky, Taurasi announced her intentions to return for her 16th season next year, when she will turn 38.

“Oh, yeah, I mean 2020 is something that I'm going to do,” Taurasi said after the loss. “Everything I’m gonna do is to come back here in April 100 percent and ready to go. That's kinda where I'm at right now.”

A nine-time All-Star and the 2009 MVP, Taurasi only appeared in six games during the 2019 season after undergoing back surgery in April. She wasn't very effective when she did play — shooting just 3 for 29 from the field and topping five points in a game once — and her season was cut short again by a hamstring injury that kept her out of the playoff game.

“It’s a mental grind,” Taurasi said. “It’s a physical grind. Just when you think you’ve got there, you’re always going to have a setback here and there. I've learned that I really like this game. I'm still willing to put my time and effort into it to get back on the court. That's what I'll keep doing."

Taurasi is just over a year younger than the oldest player in the league, Sue Bird, so there was plenty of speculation about her impending retirement. Injuries have been a problem lately for the three-time champion, including a hand injury that kept her out for the 2015 season — in part due to a Russian team paying her more than 14 times her WNBA salary to rest.

Mercury stars Diana Taurasi (left) and Brittney Griner (right) said they will return next season. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Brittney Griner will also return to the Mercury

Unlike Taurasi, Mercury center Brittney Griner is not under contract for next season, but the fellow former No. 1 overall pick also signaled her intent to return to the Mercury.

“You will see me next year,” Griner said. “My contract is up, so we’ll work on that. With the new CBA, I want to be eligible to negotiate that. But I plan on signing back. They want me back, I plan on signing back. I’m good. They told me they want me here. Let me just say this, and I mean this: If I don't play here, I won't play anywhere. And I mean that. I’m not playing for any other organization. I'm a Phoenix Mercury until I'm done.”

Griner led the league in scoring for the second time in three seasons (20.7 ppg) and added 7.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. However, she expressed frustrations at time with the league’s new officiating policies, which landed her a three-game suspension and bevy of fines.

Although she’s only 28, Griner had reportedly mulled an early retirement because she said she's "not doing it for the money." However, with Taurasi and Griner back on board for next season, the Mercury will be title contenders once again, looking to win for the first time since 2014.

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