Mercury's Diana Taurasi on Her WNBA Future: 'I Plan on Playing for a While'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 27, 2022

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 13: Diana Taurasi #3 of the Phoenix Mercury looks on during the game against the Chicago Sky during Game Two of the 2021 WNBA Finals on October 13, 2021 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi is about to embark on her 18th season in the WNBA, and it might be far from her last.

"I plan on playing for a while," she told reporters during the Mercury's media day on Wednesday. "I'll let you guys know when I'm done because you're not gonna see me anymore. When I'm done playing, I'm just going to stop playing. I'm not going to ease my way out."

Despite her age (39) and the added mileage she has put on her body by playing year-round earlier in her career, Taurasi's comments shouldn't come as a huge surprise.

The Mercury are coming off an appearance in the WNBA Finals in 2021, and they signed Tina Charles and Diamond DeShields while retaining all of their key players from last year.

Brittney Griner is the notable exception as she remains in the custody of Russian authorities. Phoenix opens the regular season May 6, so it looks like the seven-time All-Star will miss most or all of the 2022 season.

"It's tough. We all are concerned about her," head coach Vanessa Nygaard said April 18. "It is something that we think about, and we pray to make sure that she is safe and that she comes home quickly."

Even without Griner, winning a championship is the clear goal for Phoenix, one that's attainable without a clear runaway preseason title favorite in the WNBA. As long as the Mercury can contend, Taurasi might have a hard time walking away.

The decision might be a little easier if her 2021 performance represents a wider trend.

The 2009 MVP was limited to 16 games because of a fractured sternum and then a sprained ankle.

Leaving aside 2019, when she only logged six appearances, she set a career low for field-goal percentage (36.6) and averaged her fewest points per 36 minutes (19.2) since 2014, per Basketball Reference. Her 0.125 win shares per 48 were a career low, too, over a full season.

Between the injuries and having to step away to represent Team USA in the 2021 Summer Olympics, perhaps it was just one of those years for Taurasi. Her game hasn't fallen off a cliff as it often does for legends at such an advanced stage of their careers.

"I want to play, and when I suck, I won't play," she said Wednesday. "Trust me, I'll be in those workouts in the winter and be like, 'Hmm, that's it.'"

Fans certainly shouldn't take this season for granted because it doesn't sound like Taurasi is planning to do a farewell tour when she decides it's time to retire.