Phoenix Mercury and WNBA legend Diana Taurasi says she's planning to return for her 19th season next summer. The league's all-time leading scorer is currently a free agent, but despite recently turning 40 years old she's not yet ready to walk away.
Taurasi was at the Grant Woods Boys & Girls Club in Mesa, Arizona on Saturday with Kobe Bryant's daughter, Natalia, to dedicate a new basketball court on behalf of the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation. While there, she spoke to reporters about her plans for next season.
"You know, I started working out, so, the minute I start working out, that means I'm all in," Taurasi said. "Like anything, when you get to a certain point in your life and your professional career you start taking different things into account. Having two kids, a family, you start weighing different things with where your time and energy goes. I'm lucky to have an amazing family that are always pushing me to do what I love to do, and that's to play basketball. I'm ready to bring another championship here."
Sue Bird, Taurasi's long-time friend and rival, and the league's all-time assists leader, retired at the end of last season. So too did the league's all-time leading rebounder, Sylvia Fowles. Given Taurasi's age, persistent injury problems and declining play, many wondered if the all-time points leader would join the club of departing stars.
Taurasi herself even admitted during last season that retirement was on her mind.
"Seeing how happy [Sue] is going through her retirement years made me really think about that long winter," Taurasi said. When the season ends, I'll be a free agent and I'll see what's best for me. I don't know what that is right now. It's always something that as you get older as an athlete, you start thinking about and you start really kind of bouncing off ideas on [wife] Penny [Taylor] and my close friends and people that I really respect and trust their opinion."
With the offseason not even two months old, it's clear it didn't take long for Taurasi to make up her mind. As for the length and type of contract Taurasi will sign this winter, that remains unclear. Will she sign a multi-year extension, or just commit for one more season? Will she command the full max or take a discount to help the Mercury add talent for what she hopes will be another title push?
Last season was extremely difficult for the Mercury, who were without Brittney Griner after the star was detained in Russia on drug charges. She was later sentenced to nine years and remains in custody to this day. There was also internal drama that saw Tina Charles quit on the team in the middle of the season, a brutal spate of injuries and a late-season departure for Skylar Diggins-Smith due to personal reasons. Somehow, they still managed to sneak into the playoff as the No. 8 seed, but were swept in the first round.
Diggins-Smith later announced that she is pregnant and is expected to miss at least part of next season, while Griner's future remains murky. The U.S. State Department has been working on a potential prisoner swap, but it's unclear when or if that will happen. Even if she is eventually freed, there's no telling when or if she will be able to play basketball again.
Those two have been a staple of the Mercury lineup for years, and without them the team will look much different next season. The Mercury do have plenty of cap space, though, and there are a number of big-name free agents hitting the market. Could any of them be enticed to team up with Taurasi? Time will tell.