Diana Taurasi, basketball: A relationship not close to ending in Phoenix
PHOENIX — There isn’t much Diana Taurasi hasn’t accomplished on the court as an individual and with a team, or between college, the pros and overseas.
She’s won just about every award, lifted every trophy and received countless honors—some many times over — in the game.
So, what’s left? What motivates the 34-year-old Taurasi to continue to pick up a basketball?
“There’s still a part of me that thinks I’m not a good basketball player,” she said. “There’s days where I leave the gym and I’m like, ‘that’s not good enough.’
“The day I lose that feeling of wanting to get better and still be a competitor on the court where things still bother me — I still want to win, I still want to beat the person who’s in front of me — when that feeling is gone, then that’s probably the day I’ll step away from basketball.”
Fresh off another Russian National League championship, her sixth, Taurasi rejoined the Phoenix Mercury one week ahead of the regular-season opener.
The Mercury host Dallas on Sunday with tip-off scheduled for 3 p.m. at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
At media day on Monday, Taurasi admitted to feeling a bit like a rookie again given all the new faces. There are 12 of them.
The Mercury roster underwent a major overhaul in the offseason.
Penny Taylor retired and Candice Dupree was traded, while DeWanna Bonner is expecting her first child and is out for the season, leaving Taurasi and Brittney Griner as the lone holdovers from last year’s team that advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals.
“With the pieces we added,” Taurasi said, mentioning specifically Camille Little and Danielle Robinson, “with another year of BG’s maturity, everything is just going to fall in place this summer.”
Taurasi is entering her 13th season in the WNBA and her last under contract with the Mercury.
“We’re already talking about an extension, so that’s in the works,” she told ArizonaSports.com. “I’m not going anywhere. There’s no place I’d rather be.”
Taurasi knows no other place, at least in the WNBA. The Mercury drafted Taurasi with the No.1 overall pick in 2004, and she’s been the face of the franchise ever since.
Now one month shy of her 35th birthday, Taurasi is showing no signs of slowing down.
“I think Diana Taurasi could play for another three or four years if she wants to and hopefully she’ll want to,” GM Jim Pitman said. “We believe she still plays at a very high level. She doesn’t rely on her athleticism to be great. She has skills, she also has the highest basketball IQ of anybody I’ve ever been around together with the greatest competitive fire of anybody I’ve ever been around, so when you have those things working for you, you can play for as long as you really want. I liken her more to a Tom Brady or a John Stockton than to anyone else.”
Brady, 39, is still playing and dominating the NFL. Stockton, meanwhile, played and started all 82 games as a 40-year-old in his last season with the Utah Jazz.
“I go back-and-forth,” Taurasi said of her future on a basketball court. “I go from the mindset of, ‘OK, you’ve played enough basketball, that’s enough’ and then I wake up the next morning, ‘but I’m playing basketball, why would I want to do anything else?’ So, at this point really, I’m just taking it year-by-year. This is definitely not my last summer playing basketball. I think I have a couple of more years to give to this franchise and see what comes next in this next chapter for it with BG, with DB coming back and hopefully I can help steer it back into the winning ways that we’ve done.”
And therein lies Taurasi’s motivation. It’s the will to win.
And while at some point this season Taurasi will add yet another individual accomplishment to her already impressive basketball resume — she needs only 178 points to become the all-time leading scorer in league history — the ultimate goal is to lead the Mercury to a fourth WNBA championship.
“It’s all about putting another banner in this building. I know every team talks about it, I know we’ve talked about it now for 13 years and it’s easy to say but it’s hard to do,” she said. “I think this year we’re going to have to be willing to do the little things to make sure when that time comes we’re ready and there’s no doubt in ourselves and the people around us.”