HomeSportsBrittney Griner remains in Phoenix on a one-year, $150,000 contract

Brittney Griner remains in Phoenix on a one-year, $150,000 contract

Brittney Griner resides in Phoenix.

Griner has signed a new deal to remain with the Mercury, announced the competition. According to Richard Cohen of Her Hoop Stats, it’s a one-year protected deal worth $150,000. The unrestricted free agent told reporters during her exit meeting after the 2023 season that she had no plans to play elsewhere.

“Phoenix is ​​home,” Griner said. “My wife and I literally just got a place [here]. This is it.”

Griner has been a fixture with the Mercury since the franchise drafted her No. 1 overall pick in 2013. The 2024 WNBA season will be her 11th and second since returning from a 10-month unlawful detention in Russia. She helped Phoenix to the 2014 WNBA title and finished second in the MVP voting in 2019 and 2021.

The Mercury missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 2012 after a 9-31 campaign that saw them rank in the bottom two offensively and defensively. They parted ways with their head coach a quarter of the way through the season and hired former Orlando Magic assistant Nate Tibbetts in October.

Griner’s return from unlawful detention

Grinner’s return to the WNBA field was a welcome celebration for fans last May. After returning home in December, she signed a one-year, $165,100 deal as an unrestricted free agent. It was a reduction in the cap to free up room for a salary cap.

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When she left the United States in February 2022 to return to her Russian UMMC Ekaterinburg team, she was a strong MVP candidate expected to return the Mercury to the finals. She returned after Russian prisons and a sentence of almost ten years in prison. The former Baylor star hadn’t touched a basketball in almost a year and chose not to have one while she was restrained because it was too difficult.

Her 2023 season went better than anyone could have expected after such an ordeal. The 6-foot-1 center averaged 17.5 points (almost exactly her career average), 6.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 blocks per game. Her 22.9 points per 36 minutes was slightly better than in 2021 and ranked second most in her career.

Griner appeared in her ninth All-Star game and improved as the season progressed. She will look for MVP and all-WNBA honors in 2024 with a full offseason to stay in shape and train.

For the first time, she didn’t go abroad to play like many stars in the league do and has said she won’t play in another country again unless it’s for Team USA. She rejoined the national team last year and could star at the Paris Olympics this summer, where the team will go for gold for the eighth time. Griner won with the 2016 and 2021 teams.

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Brittney Grinner.

Brittney Griner returns to Phoenix in free agency. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

What Grinner’s signing means for Mercury

Griner sets the stage for the Mercury as a key offensive contributor with one of the most efficient two-point shooting clips in league history and a threat to defenses patrolling the rim. She is also a loyal, larger-than-life player for the franchise and has a close relationship with the team personnel, especially when she was retained.

The Mercury need to add more offensive weapons around them to work with veteran guard Diana Taurasi, who is signed through the 2024 season and said she plans to return. Taurasi, who became the WNBA’s first 10,000-point scorer last year, has not been completely healthy in recent seasons and is on the verge of retirement. The franchise has had a win-now mentality in recent seasons in an effort to earn her one final ring.

The big hole is guarded without Skylar Diggins-Smith, an unrestricted free agent who was on maternity leave last season. She and the Mercury haven’t had the best of terms over the past two years. Guards Sophie Cunningham and Moriah Jefferson and forwards Michaela Onyenwere and Brianna Turner have been signed.

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The Mercury have the No. 3 overall pick in the April draft, including guards Caitlin Clark, Paige Bueckers and Georgia Amoore, and forwards Aaliyah Edwards and Cameron Brink. It’s the last year players can take an extra year under the COVID-19 waiver.

Clark is projected to go No. 1 to the Fever and Brink is projected to the Mercury at No. 3 in Yahoo Sports’ mock draft. Brink, Stanford’s national champion, would create a strong frontcourt alongside Griner, improving their league-worst defensive rating and second-worst offensive rating.

The Mercury have had a rough few years after reaching the 2021 WNBA Finals, where they lost to the Chicago Sky. They parted ways with longtime head coach Sandy Brondello months later and fired first head coach Vanessa Nygaard twelve games into her second year. She was 17-31 as Phoenix’s head coach. Griner’s arrest put a cloud over their 2022 season, and Diggins-Smith publicly called out her coach as a clown shortly after tensions on the bench with teammates came to light.

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