“It just confirmed everything that I thought about her,” said Diggins-Smith, a four-time All-Star. “She has a work ethic. She’s competitive. She’s a great leader, and she’s a winner. So it’s cool being able to play alongside of her. She definitely challenges me and pushes me.”
Yet when Taurasi felt a pop in the side of her body during an Aug. 8 game against Seattle, her first reaction was: Not this again.
She had a strained oblique, which was not serious but still left her bedridden for a couple of days. She watched a lot of ESPN and Bravo on television, and browsed home listings because she is “kind of addicted to real estate.”
Since recovering, Taurasi has keyed the Mercury’s run to the postseason.
She buried a career-high-tying eight 3-pointers in a Sept. 3 win against Indiana to clinch a playoff berth, and hit seven shots from behind the arc in two other games. She pulled down 12 rebounds in an Aug. 30 win over Minnesota. She dished out seven assists three times during the last two weeks of the regular season.
Brondello praised Taurasi’s leadership after Griner left the bubble on Aug. 22, which was a turning point for the Mercury. Taurasi has averaged 21.2 points over those nine games, playing a free-flowing style that allows her to use the additional space to attack the basket, shoot from deep and create for others.
Taurasi said that production uptick has come out of necessity.
“We’re each in a corner where we have to do it,” Taurasi said. “You can’t say, ‘Oh, well, this person will do it.’ No, because we don’t really have that many bodies at this point. You have to get it done, or we won’t win.
“I think everyone’s taking that pretty serious, and I have, too.”