The Phoenix Mercury can finish with a winning record during Brittney Griner’s lengthy absence by adding to the San Antonio Stars’ extended woes.
The Mercury will try to keep the Stars winless when Griner wraps up her suspension Thursday night.
The WNBA gave Griner a record seven-game penalty for a domestic violence arrest in April. Her then-fiancee and Tulsa forward Glory Johnson was also given a seven-game suspension for the incident but is not playing this season because she is pregnant.
Johnson announced that news through her Instagram account June 4, and Griner said the next day that she was filing an annulment for their May 8 marriage.
Griner pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and will have those charges dismissed if she completes 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling.
The 2014 Defensive Player of the Year is set to return for the Mercury on Saturday in Minnesota.
"Basketball is my safe zone, being back on the court means everything for me. Basketball is my life," Griner said. "I’m ready to go. I definitely have been watching, and I have been doing everything off the court to be on the court."
Phoenix has gone 3-3 without Griner, who averaged career highs of 15.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.8 blocks last year. The reigning WNBA champions are also playing without the league’s No. 2 all-time leading scorer, Diana Taurasi, because her Russian league team is paying her to rest.
"We’re definitely a different team with (Griner) in the middle," coach Sandy Brondello said. "The good news, at least, is that even though she was suspended, she was able to practice with us so she’s already familiar with this group."
DeWanna Bonner has led the way during those absences, averaging 20.2 points – nearly double her 2014 output – along with 7.0 rebounds. She had a season-high 23 points in an 84-72 win in Seattle on Sunday.
Bonner scored 21 in a 76-71 victory against San Antonio in the season opener for both teams June 5. The Stars (0-6) have since endured the worst start in franchise history, surpassing an 0-5 mark in 2005, and are one of the league’s two winless teams along with Los Angeles (0-5).
San Antonio took Chicago to overtime in a 95-87 defeat Saturday. The Stars nearly had six players in double figures in what was easily their highest-scoring performance but leading scorer Jia Perkins, who averages 13.5 points, was held to eight.
"I definitely think this is a process for us. These teams that we are playing against have been playing together for a while, and we have a new team that has to work out the kinks," said forward Sophia Young-Malcolm, who had 16 points and a season-best 11 rebounds. "I feel like we’re growing and tonight was a growth spurt for us. We just have to progress from here."
Perkins had 20 points in the loss to Phoenix earlier this month, San Antonio’s fourth in a row and sixth in the past seven meetings. The Mercury have won three of four in San Antonio but needed a combined three overtimes to earn two victories there last season.