Brittney Griner performs in first WNBA preseason recreation since detainment in Russia


Brittney Griner strolled down the sideline about 1 1/2 hours before the Phoenix Mercury performed Friday night time, giving hugs and high-fiving her teammates, coaches and opposing gamers.

Then it was a little bit stretching, a little bit taking pictures and a little bit agility work to arrange for a basketball recreation.

Similar to previous instances.

“I’m grateful to be right here, that’s for positive,” Griner mentioned. “I’m not going to take a day with no consideration.”

Griner returned to game action for the primary time since a virtually 10-month detainment in Russia on drug-related fees ended with a prisoner swap in December.

The seven-time All-Star, who missed your complete 2022 season due to the detainment, completed with 10 factors and three rebounds in a WNBA preseason recreation towards the Los Angeles Sparks.

The 6-foot-9 Griner seemed good, particularly contemplating the lengthy layoff, casually throwing down a one-handed dunk throughout warmups.

She stood together with her teammates whereas the nationwide anthem was performed and acquired a loud ovation from the house crowd when she was launched earlier than tipoff.

“Listening to the nationwide anthem, it undoubtedly hit totally different,” Griner mentioned. “It’s like while you go for the Olympics, you’re sitting there, about to get gold put in your neck, the flags are going up and the anthem is enjoying, it simply hits totally different.

“Being right here at the moment … it means rather a lot.”


Griner acquired a loud ovation from the house crowd when she was launched earlier than tipoff.
AP

Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard mentioned the anthem and introductions had been emotional for your complete staff.

“We checked out one another and we simply had chills,” Nygaard mentioned. “We had been right here final 12 months for all of it. I’m getting emotional about it now. Simply to see her again on the market — it’s an absolute miracle. It was superb. It’s giving me chills once more.”

As soon as the sport began, the 32-year-old Griner instantly went to work, scoring on a turnaround jumper early within the first quarter.


Griner finished with 10 points and three rebounds in a WNBA preseason game against the Los Angeles Sparks.
As soon as the sport began, the 32-year-old Griner instantly went to work, scoring on a turnaround jumper early within the first quarter.
Getty Photographs

A couple of minutes later, she was fouled on one other turnaround and sank each free throws.

She even had a cameo with the medical workers within the third quarter. Teammate Sophie Cunningham went down with a knee harm and Griner helped carry her off the court docket so she didn’t must put weight on her leg.

“When certainly one of us goes down, we’re all the time proper there,” Griner mentioned. “That’s one factor about this staff — we’re all the time there for one another. We’ve received every others’ backs, massive time.”


Griner’s return to the Mercury rekindles hope the franchise can make another run to the WNBA Finals.
Griner’s return to the Mercury rekindles hope the franchise could make one other run to the WNBA Finals.
Getty Photographs

Griner’s return to the Mercury rekindles hope the franchise could make one other run to the WNBA Finals.

The previous Baylor star helped the franchise win its third title in 2014 and has averaged 17.7 factors and seven.6 rebounds throughout her nine-year profession.

She was runner-up for Most Beneficial Participant in 2021, when the Mercury additionally performed within the Finals however misplaced to the Chicago Sky.

Griner mentioned she was extra rusty on the court docket than anticipated. However given the trials and feelings of the previous 18 months, it was a fairly good night time.

“Not the place I need it to be, however heading in the right direction,” Griner mentioned. “We’re making the appropriate strikes.”

Phoenix opens the common season in Los Angeles subsequent Friday.

The additional publicity from being detained in Russia for having vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her baggage has given Griner a platform to advocate for other People being detained overseas.

She was already an LGBTQ+ activist since publicly popping out in 2013 and have become the primary brazenly homosexual athlete to be sponsored by Nike.


Griner finished with 10 points and three rebounds in a WNBA preseason game against the Los Angeles Sparks.
Griner completed with 10 factors and three rebounds in a WNBA preseason recreation towards the Los Angeles Sparks.
Getty Photographs

Griner introduced in April that she is working with Deliver Our Households Residence, a marketing campaign shaped final 12 months by the members of the family of American hostages and wrongful detainees held abroad.

She mentioned her staff has been in touch with the family of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who’s being detained in Russia on espionage charges.



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