Mercury coach confident that Diana Taurasi will play in WNBA in 2021

PHOENIX — Despite the uncertainty about if there will be a WNBA season this year, Phoenix Mercury coach Sandy Brondello is sure of one thing: Diana Taurasi will be back in 2021.

Even if Taurasi isn’t so sure.

“Without a doubt, she’s coming back,” Brondello said. “I have no doubt about that. I think with the cherry of playing the Olympics next year, I mean why wouldn’t she? And as long as she’s healthy, age is just a number for me.

“It’s more about if they’re healthy and playing well. I mean, why wouldn’t she want to keep going for even past 2021? She has the ability. No one works harder than she does.”

On April 3, the WNBA indefinitely postponed the start of its season, which was scheduled to begin May 15, because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 Olympics, which would have been Taurasi’s fifth and, likely, last, were postponed to 2021.

The timing of the coronavirus-induced lockdown was “really bad” for Taurasi, Brondello said, because the 15-year veteran was starting to feel good after back and hamstring injuries limited her to just six games last season.

“She was really getting back,” Brondello said. “Watching her during the individual and small group work before we were in lockdown, that’s the best she’s ever felt in such a long time. But, look, hopefully she can get back to where she needs to be at her best.”

Taurasi, who turns 38 on June 11, questioned her playing future during an Instagram Live chat on May 12 with Geno Auriemma, her coach at Connecticut.

“Who knows? A year from now, a month from now, I might not be playing basketball. I just don’t know,” Taurasi told Auriemma. “When you get to my age, when things get put on hold, it makes it tougher to stay ready for when it will happen. And it sounds like [the Olympics] won’t even happen next year, from what I hear. I just don’t think anyone is going to be able to handle that many people coming in.

“The same with the WNBA and the NBA. Is the reward bigger than the risk? As a league, as a business, can you tell me that I’m going to be safe? And the way this [coronavirus] spreads, how can you do that? I don’t know how they can do it.”

Brondello, who played in the WNBA for six seasons, said consistency in training is important for older players. And having coached Taurasi for six seasons with the Mercury, Brondello has learned one thing.

“I never underestimate her,” Brondello said. “I’m hopeful a season is gonna go ahead this year. I’m very confident that she’ll continue playing next year.”

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