The desert is getting hotter by the minute for the Phoenix Mercury as two of the team’s stars got into a heated argument that had to be broken up on the sideline.
Players Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith had to be separated after they had a conversation that steered into a confrontation when they got into each other’s faces before being separated by their teammates.
The altercation happened on May 17 during a timeout late in the first half of Mercury’s 86-74 loss to the Las Vegas Aces. Both Taurasi and Diggins-Smith were named WNBA All-Stars last season.
— Donnetta Ms Ballin D Coleman (@msballind) May 18, 2022
Sideline Beef. Primetime Seats.
During the postgame press conference, coach Vanessa Nygaard discussed what happened between her popular players.
“People play sports with a lot of passion. We’re not the first team to have any arguments or disagreements on the bench,” Nygaard said.
“We’ve seen it throughout the NBA this season and other leagues. The players, they play hard. They play with passion, and this is their lives. This is a game that they love, and there’s a lot going on. Our team has even more going on with the BG situation, too. That isn’t something that goes away for us, so, yeah, I could call it passion.”
Trenia Barbee @Boss__Barbee asked Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard about the conflict between teammates Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith during the game at Las Vegas Tuesday night (May 17). #WNBA #WNBATwitter pic.twitter.com/uPO5jk5zGS
— Hoopfeed.com 🏀 (@hoopfeed) May 18, 2022
The Brittney Griner Factor
Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia for allegedly traveling to the country with vape cartridges filled with hashish has also impacted her teammates. The team has three championships (2007, 2009, and 2014) and five conference titles.
Griner is a seven-time WNBA All-Star, two-time WNBA scoring champion, and eight-time WNBA blocking leader. Once, the U.S. government reclassified Griner’s detention to “wrongfully detained” it indicated a shift from the lower profile stance that the league and the government first employed.
The NBA Makes A Statement
On Tuesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke publicly about WNBA player Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia, expressing the league’s commitment and support for the center.
“The league, and by that both the WNBA and its brother league, the NBA, we have a huge responsibility to Brittney Griner as one of our players,” Silver told ESPN’s, Malika Andrews.
Last week, Griner’s pretrial detention in Russia was extended for one month. An official of the U.S. Consulate met with Griner, and the State Department revealed it is trying to have regular contact with her.
Dynamic Duo. Not So Dynamic Day.
Diggins-Smith and Taurasi combined to score 18 points on 4-for-15 shooting. The loss on Tuesday marked the Mercury’s second straight this season to the Aces.
Diana Taurasi is widely considered one of the GOATs of the WNBA. She holds the record for eight 30-point playoff games under her impressive résumé. Taurasi was also the first WNBA player to score 9,000 career points in June and won gold with Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Diggins-Smith is a four-time WNBA All-Star and is one of only three players in WNBA history to average at least 17 points and four assists in a season at least five times during their career. Her teammate, Diana Taurasi has accomplished that feat six times.
There is tension in the desert and the temporary loss of teammate Brittney Griner isn’t helping.