Phoenix Mercury’s Griner leaves WNBA bubble

    Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

Phoenix center Brittney Griner has left the WNBA’s bubble in Bradenton, Florida, for personal reasons, the Mercury announced Saturday. Griner had missed her first game this season on Friday as the Mercury lost 90-80 to Minnesota.

Griner is Phoenix’s leading scorer (17.7) and rebounder (7.5) this season. The No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, she’s in her eighth season with the Mercury and has been a starter throughout her time in Phoenix.

“Our team’s commitment remains on the 2020 regular season and playoffs,” the Mercury said in a release. “Our players and coaches will have no additional comment on the matter.”

The Mercury are 6-7 and have lost their last three games. At this point, if Griner were to return to the bubble, she would have to go through medical protocol that would include quarantining for seven days at IMG Academy. The WNBA’s regular season is 22 games, so the Mercury have only nine games left before the postseason would begin. Phoenix is currently in playoff position in sixth place.

“At this point, we’re just trying to grow as a basketball team with whoever’s available at whatever time,” Mercury guard Diana Taurasi said Friday.

The three-guard starting lineup of Taurasi, Bria Hartley and Skylar Diggins-Smith was successful, but the Mercury didn’t have enough inside presence on Friday.

“Brittney certainly would have helped us,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello.

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