Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Mercury's Taurasi named MVP
PHOENIX -- Diana Taurasi was the runaway winner for most valuable player in the WNBA, a style of victory fitting for the multitalented leader of the fast-paced Phoenix Mercury.
The lanky 6-footer was presented with the award at a news conference Tuesday before the Mercury played the Indiana Fever in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.
It's the first MVP award for the four-time WNBA All-Star, who led the league in scoring at 23.8 points per game in her sixth pro season after being drafted No. 1 out of Connecticut in 2004.
Taurasi received 27 first-place votes and 323 points overall in ballots cast by a panel that included representatives of every WNBA market and members of the national media. Runner-up Tamika Catchings of Indiana got three first-place votes and 163 points.
Katie Douglas of Indiana was third with five first-place votes, 128 points, and Taurasi's teammate Cappie Pondexter finished fourth with 99 points overall and one first-place ballot.
Taurasi said that when Anne Meyers-Drysdale, the Mercury vice president and general manager, told her of the victory "I felt like a little kid again."
"In my career you get a lot of awards, like first-team All-Star, but this really means a lot," Taurasi said.
She spoke of a "summer of a lot of ups and downs," a reference to her July 2 driving under the influence arrest. She had a blood-alcohol level of .17 percent, more than twice the legal limit.
Taurasi, a member of two gold medal Olympic teams, has been open about the embarrassment of the incident and how much she appreciated those who supported her.
"It's a situation that I'll always keep in the back of my mind," Taurasi said. "It reminds you how fragile life can be in one's career. ... If it's something you love to do, you should never put it in jeopardy, and for a minute there I did, and I'll keep that in the back of my head for the rest of my career."
She and Pondexter led the Mercury to the best record in the WNBA at 23-11 in search of the team's second league championship in three years.
Taurasi, in the top 10 in nearly every WNBA category, said she is playing the best of her career after going to Europe in the offseason to dedicate herself to improving her game.
"Mentally, physically, to get better at something I wasn't very good at," she said. "It's something as simple as a pivot or a drop-step, or being consistent on the free throw lines, rebounding every game. I tried to carry that over into the WNBA, which is the hardest, most-intense league you can play in in women's basketball. If you can get it done here, you can feel pretty good about yourself."
Meyers-Drysdale said Taurasi was born with a gift and has used that talent to the utmost ability.
"The highest compliment in the women's game still is 'She plays like a guy,'" Meyers-Drysdale said. "She's a player that's going to be talked about for a long time."
Taurasi's passion for the game is apparent anytime she's on the court.
"The thing that I love about her game, too, is she brings such joy, like Cheryl Miller did, to the game," Meyers-Drysdale said. "I've always compared it to Roy Campanella, who always said you have to have a lot of little boy in you to play the game of baseball. She has a lot of little girl in her to play the game of basketball."