Mercury visit Storm in matchup of title hopefuls

The Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm want to get back to championship-winning form this season.

It’s just that their players don’t want to talk too much about it.

“There was one year, I was not saying that word anymore,” Mercury guard Diana Taurasi, the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, told the Arizona Republic. “It’s just easy to say we want to win a championship.

“Do we have the talent? Yes. Are we going to take that extra step of making sure we put it together and we make it work to the point we’re playing at a level together as a championship team? We’ll see. We have the talent, the experience and the ability to do that. Now we’ve got to put it together.”

The Mercury did that Friday night in their season opener as Taurasi scored 26 points, including the 1,000th 3-pointer of her career, in an 86-78 victory against the visiting Dallas Wings.

DeWanna Bonner, who returned after missing last season to give birth to twins, added 17 points and 12 rebounds. Brittney Griner, battling foul trouble, scored 13 points and newcomer Briann January had 10.

The Storm opens their season Sunday night, hosting the Mercury at Seattle’s KeyArena.

With veteran Sue Bird and emerging superstars Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd, the Storm also have title aspirations.

“I’m not going to say anything. I don’t want to jinx it,” Loyd told The Seattle Times. “That would be pretty dope, though.”

Of course, the Mercury and Storm have to contend with the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx in the Western Conference.

The Storm selected UCLA point guard Jordin Canada with the No. 5 overall pick in the WNBA draft and brought in veteran Courtney Paris to help shore up the frontcourt.

“The first thing I want to be is a winning basketball team. We haven’t been a winning basketball team since 2011,” said new Storm coach Dan Hughes, a 20-year WNBA veteran. “We have to change the defensive direction where it’s been and where we’d like to go. … To be elite, we’re going to have to shore up the defensive side of the ball.”

Stewart, who is entering her third professional season, won four NCAA titles at UConn, earning MVP honors of the Final Four each time.

“I’m here to win. That’s why I play basketball. I’m tired of being 15-19 or whatever …” Stewart told The Times. “It’s about winning and bringing that culture back to the Storm franchise.”