Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner, Diana Taurasi aim for spot on US roster prior to 2024 Olympics

Nov 7, 2023, 8:10 PM | Updated: Nov 8, 2023, 11:34 am

Team USA...

The USA Women's National Team and the Tennessee Lady Vols pose for a group photo before the exhibition game at Thompson-Boling Arena on November 05, 2023 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)

(Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)

WNBA stars Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi are no strangers to the Olympics.

Earlier this week, the Phoenix Mercury teammates were announced as part of the 16-player roster for Team USA’s training camp prior to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The two worked together to lead Team USA to gold medals in 2016 and 2020. Taurasi is a five-time gold medalist while Griner’s 30-point game in 2020 became the second-highest total in an Olympic contest in U.S. women’s history.

But for Griner, representing Team USA this time around means so much more.

“It’s just a different feeling when you’re playing with USA at the Olympics, representing the whole country,” Griner told reporters on Tuesday. “Everybody’s tuning in and then there was a lot of times a year ago where I didn’t think I would play ball.

“I didn’t think I would ever wear this jersey again. I didn’t know what the future was.”

Griner spent 10 months in a Russian prison after being arrested at a Moscow airport with less than a gram of hash oil in her suitcase. She’d been playing in Russia during the offseason for the past seven years.

She was granted release on Dec. 8, 2022, stating “I’m never going overseas to play again unless I’m representing my country at the Olympics. If I make that team, that would be the only reason I would leave U.S. soil.”

The opportunity has arrived.

At 33 years old, the eight-time all-star has a lot left in the tank. She’s primarily focused on her health in order to help Team USA win its eighth straight gold medal.

“Feeling good. Compared from the season to right now, I think this is the best that I’ve felt,” Griner said. “… Once the season was over, I was able to really decompress, takes some time. Since then, I’ve been really working on my body and that’s my only focus. My main focus is on the court and performing there. My main focus right now, outside of this camp is just my body.”

Taurasi, meanwhile, is getting used to a new cast of teammates.

This marks the first time in Taurasi’s Olympic career where Sue Bird won’t be by her side. The legendary duo won five straight gold medals together.

“This morning, I woke up and I went to go reach for my phone and text Sue to go get some coffee and it was a stark realization that it’s just me here now,” Taurasi said with a smile. “I miss her dearly. We’ve obviously gone through this for a long time together.”

This time around, Taurasi will look to achieve a new task: Building chemistry with her new teammates.

“On the flip side, it’s been really fun to get to know some of these young guys that I haven’t spent a lot of time with. Sabrina (Ionescu)Jackie (Young) and (Kahleah) Copper. I could go down the line, meeting Aliyah (Boston) for the first time and really having some conversations with her and get to know her.

“It’s definitely a different setting for me but the goal is the same. It’s to come into these camps and see how quickly can we get together (and) find chemistry.”

The U.S. is still in the process of finalizing its 12-player roster, wrapping up its first exhibition against the Tennessee Lady Vols on Sunday, winning 95-59. Griner and Taurasi both scored 11 points.

Team USA will begin training camp in Atlanta on Tuesday and play another exhibition at Duke on Sunday.

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