Diana Taurasi was picked up in the first round of the 2004 WNBA draft by the Phoenix Mercury and has been the face of the franchise ever since.
With her, the Mercury have won two WNBA championships, the most recent of which came last season after Phoenix posted a franchise-best 29-5 record. Taurasi averaged 16.2 points per game — the 11th consecutive season in which she’s averaged double-digit points.
So when general manager Jim Pitman got a call from Taurasi the weekend before she made the announcement to sit out the 2015 WNBA season, it was a bit of a shock.
“It’s obviously a big blow to the Mercury,” Pitman told Arizona Sports 98.7‘s Doug and Wolf. “You don’t just replace the best player in the world; she was the best women’s player in the world and still is.”
Taurasi will now be paid over $1.5 million to sit out the Mercury’s season — about 15 times her WNBA salary of around $107,000 — in order to stay healthy for her season overseas in Russia.
“It was an unfortunate situation for us and we’re disappointed that she’s not going to be back, but it’s certainly something that we understand,” said Pitman. “It was something she had to do for herself, for her family and her future as she looks to life after basketball.”
Pitman also wants to make something absolutely clear: 2015’s Mercury team isn’t going to sit back and whine about missing Taurasi.
“We’re not taking the year off,” he said. “We’re not going to make excuses. We are here to win, and we will do everything we can to defend, and that’s our mindset.”
The team has been busy. Within two days of Taurasi’s official announcement, the team announced the signings of five new players and will still return veteran leadership in Candice Dupree, DeWanna Bonner and Brittney Griner.