After spending most of 2022 in Russian custody, Brittney Griner is back in the United States, and has already started shifting her focus to the 2023 WNBA season. In her first statement since arriving home in the U.S., Griner said she will play for the Phoenix Mercury next season.
Griner wrote a lengthy post on Instagram thanking everyone who helped free her from a Russian penal colony and get her home safely. At the end of her post, Griner confirmed that she will be with the Mercury when the WNBA season tips off in May of next year.
"I also want to make one thing very clear: I intend to play basketball for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say 'thank you' to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon," Griner wrote.
That is great news for the Mercury, who were without Griner for the entirety of the 2022 season. Additionally, star player Skylar Diggins-Smith is pregnant and will miss some or all of the 2023 campaign. WNBA legend Diana Taurasi has signaled her intent to return for another season, but she cannot make that official until free agency begins in February.
In 2021, when Griner last played for the Mercury, Griner had an All-Star season. She averaged 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game.
Prior to announcing her WNBA return, Griner made sure to express her gratitude to everyone who helped get her home.
"It feels so good to be home!" Griner wrote in part of her post. "The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn. I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help."
She noted that she will do everything in her power to attempt to bring Paul Whelan back to the United States. Whelan, a retired U.S. Marine, has been in Russian custody for nearly four years after being convicted on espionage charges that the U.S. has called false.
"President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too," Griner wrote. "I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you. I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole."