espnW: Diana Taurasi
I couldn't be more excited to have the WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix this year.
I really love this city. The X-Factor fans [the nickname for Mercury fans] are amazing and so supportive. Playing for this team, this city and this organization is a big reason I come back each year.
Here's a shocker: Phoenix is hot in the summer. Really hot. But there's something about this city that people fall in love with. I spend the majority of my days in the gym before, during and after practice, but I do enjoy barbecuing with my teammates and trying new places to eat around town. Phoenix is a great city to go out with a group of friends and just enjoy each other's company. There will be plenty of restaurants to try during the All-Star break. If you need a recommendation, hit me up.
I don't really know the exact number of All-Star Games I've played in. I've had fun each time, but I'm not really big on individual achievements, so being an All-Star MVP is never a priority. I've been in the league a long time and I get the most enjoyment from the All-Star Game by getting others involved and just having fun on the court and goofing with friends and teammates off of it. (When you have Brittney Griner as a teammate, it's hard not to have fun.) The WNBA season is a grind, but it's kind of short at the same time. The All-Star Game is a nice way to break the season up a bit.
The best part about playing in the WNBA All-Star Game is catching up with friends and former teammates across the league. Sue [Bird] and I will usually grab some food to catch up, and seeing the newer players get to participate in the game is always fun, too.
I know a few of the things Phoenix has planned for the All-Star Game and the days leading up to it, and we're going to do the WNBA and its fans proud.
On this day in 2009, the Phoenix Mercury won their second WNBA title by beating the Indiana Fever 94-86 in Game 5 of one of the best series in league history. The Mercury were led by their Big Three of Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter and Penny Taylor. Taurasi, the regular-season MVP in 2009, also was named MVP of the Finals. The series was highlighted by a 120-116 overtime victory for Phoenix in Game 1.
It definitely has been an up-and-down season for the Mercury, but we're in the Western Conference finals, and right now, that is all that matters.
We got off to a little bit of a rocky start, but we've really started to improve as a team over the past eight weeks. Under [interim head coach] Russ Pennell, there has been more of a focus on the defensive end of the floor and rebounding the ball.
I think we are more disciplined as a team and understand what each other's roles are. That's a really important key to the success of any basketball team. More importantly, I think we are clicking at the right time.
In the playoffs, everyone knows that anything can happen. It comes down to who wants it more. We've really developed a great rivalry with the Minnesota Lynx over the past couple of years, and we are excited to go against them. Right now, though, they're the best team in the league, so we'll need to step up our game.
Maya Moore is one of the best players in the world, but the Lynx also have a really deep team and get out in transition well along with being a great rebounding and defensive team. They're playing great at home, so we have to use our size in the paint to our advantage with Brittney Griner anchoring the middle.
Speaking of Brittney, I couldn't be more proud of her. She's handled everything this season with class and integrity. Plus, she's a heck of a player. What she's doing on and off the court is really important for women's basketball and women's athletics in general. We still give her a hard time -- she's still a rookie, after all -- but she's one of the nicest, hard-working people you'll ever meet. And that shot she hit in Game 3 against the Sparks? Amazing.
What I really love about this Mercury team is how we all get along so well. That's one of our greatest strengths. We hang out as a team all the time off the court and genuinely enjoy each other's company. Camaraderie is never an issue. Having that type of a relationship with teammates can take you anywhere. Plus, we are all committed to working hard and getting better.
If we can shore up our defense and play focused and smart, I like our chances.