Mercury to open 20th WNBA season on May 14 at Minnesota
PHOENIX -- The three-time league champion Phoenix Mercury will tip off their 20th WNBA season with a nationally televised game against the Minnesota Lynx on Saturday, May 14, from Minneapolis.
The Mercury's home opener at Talking Stick Resort Arena will be Friday, May 20, vs. Seattle.
The 34-game WNBA schedule includes a one-month break (July 24 through Aug. 23) for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Seven-time WNBA All-Star Diana Taurasi will return to the roster for coach Sandy Brondello, joining a trio of 2015 All-Stars: Brittney Griner, Candice Dupree and DeWanna Bonner. Taurasi, Griner and Dupress are all among the 25 finalists selected for the U.S. Olympic Team training camp, which will be conducted in February.
The Mercury were selected for four nationally televised games: The May 14 opener at Minnesota on ESPN; Tuesday, June 21, at Dallas (formerly Tulsa) on ESPN2; Sunday, Aug. 28, vs. Los Angeles on ESPN2; and Tuesday, Sept. 6, at Atlanta on ESPN2. The Mercury's local television schedule on FOX Sports Arizona will be announced at a later date.
Ten of the Mercury's 17 home games will be played on the weekend: four on Friday, two on Saturday and four on Sunday.
The 2016 WNBA schedule will feature a new "balanced" format where every team will play 10 opponents three times and one opponent four times -- regardless of conference. The Mercury will play four games vs. Dallas and three games vs. the rest of the league.
Tickets for all home games will go on sale on Friday, Jan. 29, at noon and can be purchased by calling 602-252-WNBA or by visiting PhoenixMercury.com.
In addition to the scheduling changes, the league is expanding and changing the playoff format. The top eight teams, regardless of conference affiliation, will qualify for the postseason, which will be stretched to four rounds.
The top two seeds will receive a bye into the semifinals -- which will expand from best-of-three to best-of five.
The opening two rounds will be single-elimination games. The teams will be reseeded after each round.
"First and foremost, the new postseason format provides an enhanced opportunity to showcase the best teams in the WNBA Finals," said Mark Tatum, NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer.
"Coupled with the new regular-season structure that creates more competitive balance and additional excitement during the stretch run toward the playoffs, the new postseason format will provide a heightened sense of urgency to the start of the postseason.
"Add to that the fact that ESPN networks will air every postseason game live and we are talking about increased exposure and increased excitement."