The new-look Phoenix Mercury will host the young Dallas Wings when the teams open their WNBA seasons Sunday at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.
The Mercury added 10 new players to their core duo of guard Diana Taurasi and center Brittney Griner. Taurasi enters her 13th WNBA season on the brink of two major league records.
Taurasi is third in career scoring with 7,311 points, needing 178 to break the mark of 7,488 held by Tina Thompson. Taurasi also needs seven 3-pointers to break the league career mark of 706, held by Katie Smith.
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Phoenix added a key pair via trade — three-time All-Star point guard Danielle Robinson and 11-year WNBA veteran forward Camille Little.
“It’s almost like being a rookie again,” Taurasi said at the team’s media day.
“A lot of new faces. It’s kind of exciting, getting to learn new people, seeing their game and trying to incorporate that into what (coach) Sandy (Brondello) wants us to get done on the court.”
Griner, a two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, led the league in blocked shots last season (107) while averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Dallas’ opening-day roster has an average age of 24.5 years old and includes five rookie draft picks, the most for a WNBA team since 2000, when the Minnesota Lynx had six.
The Wings’ core will be point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, forward Glory Johnson and guard Aerial Powers to go with, among others, first-round picks Evelyn Akhator, Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis.
Diggins-Smith was still bothered last season by a 2015 ACL tear, averaging 13.1 points and 3.4 assists. She hopes to be back to her 2014 levels of 20.1 points and 5.0 assists for a Dallas team that went 11-23 last season, the second-worst record in the league.
“I’m eager to see her this year in Dallas,” ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo said on a media conference call. “Such a young group now that is around her. That’s another team that I think people are kind of watching because you don’t really know quite what to expect from them with so many new faces on the roster.”
Johnson, who missed about half of last season due to pregnancy, averaged 11.3 points and 8.9 rebounds. Powers, coming back from offseason hip surgery, averaged 10.4 points last season as a rookie.
Phoenix went 16-18 in the regular season in 2016 but advanced to the playoff semifinals.
“The common thread of everyone who is here: We want to win,” Taurasi said. “I think everyone is over their personal righteousness of wanting to prove anything. I think we’re just going to be forging all in the same direction, and I think that is a great feeling to get going early in the season.”