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Phoenix Mercury start 2022 season with high expectations, Griner still detained in Russia

By Mark Brodie, Vaughan Jones
Published: Friday, May 6, 2022 - 12:17pm

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Brittney Griner Phoenix Mercury
James Franks/Cronkite News
Brittney Griner

The Phoenix Mercury open their 2022 season May 6 against the Las Vegas Aces at Footprint Center, but many of their thoughts may well be on another continent.

This week, the U.S. government said it now considers Mercury star Brittney Griner “wrongfully detained” in Russia; she’s been in custody for more than two months after being arrested for allegedly having vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her bags.

The Mercury are coming off a WNBA Finals appearance last season, where they lost to the Chicago Sky three games to one.

Cassandra Negley covers women’s basketball for Yahoo Sports.

The Show spoke with her to preview the Mercury’s season and the effect Griner’s absence will have on it.

Griner’s detainment in a Russian prison after an alleged drug arrest has been a talking point surrounding the team and the WNBA. All 12 teams will have a “BG42” decal on their home courts this season in her honor.

New Mercury Head Coach Vanessa Nygaard says players have to balance their concern for their teammate with a desire to win this season.

“I think once we start competing, once we start out there, the players are very locked in to their individual roles, responsibilities, and the success of the group,” said Nygaard.

Nygaard says with the recent news of the US government deeming Griner a “wrongfully detained” US citizen, the team is hopeful that she’ll be home soon.

"BG is in our minds all the time. We think of her, we are so happy to get some good news over the last couple of weeks, some changes in the status, when we haven't heard anything in so long," said Nygaard.

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