Mercury’s Brittney Griner works out in front of media Thursday

Feb 24, 2023, 7:37 AM | Updated: 7:39 am

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner was playing basketball in front of reporters on Thursday for the first time since her release from what the United States labeled as a wrongful detainment in Russia.

After officially re-signing with Phoenix on Tuesday for what is reportedly a one-year deal, she was seen getting in some work on the hardwood at the organization’s facility, which is shared with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

“It’s unreal … just watching and seeing her reaction on her face,” Suns center Deandre Ayton said Thursday as Griner worked out behind him. “Her just being back, just trying to get back in shape and just loving doing what she loves to do.

“You can tell her mind is free, and everybody is happy for her. So just let her suit back up and polish some things up and she’ll get back to the old BG dunking on all these folks.”


Griner’s workout was one of the rare public appearances since her return to the United States.

She had attended the WM Phoenix Open and Super Bowl earlier in February.

Griner was detained in Russia for 294 days (10 months) and missed the entire 2022 WNBA season after being arrested for having hash-like cannabis oil in her backpack at a Russian airport.

The 32-year-old made a promise as a free agent to play for the Mercury in 2023 after the U.S.-led prisoner swap brought her home.

“I told her I like her cut, too, it suits her well,” Ayton said. “I see a smile on her face, it’s something you can’t take for granted.

“It’s good seeing her out here dribbling a ball. It’s unbelievable right now. I’m just happy to see her get it in. She knows she has to get back in shape and go after it.”

Griner’s most recent season in Phoenix came in 2021, when she averaged 20.5 points per game on 57.5% shooting to go along with 9.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 blocks en route to an eighth career All-Star appearance.

The Mercury tip off their 2023 campaign on the road against the Los Angeles Sparks on May 19 and will host a highly anticipated home opener on May 21.

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