Gameday Q&A: Talking Stars-Mercury with Ben York
We are just a few hours away from the San Antonio Stars and Phoenix Mercury tipping off in Phoenix tonight for the third game of the regular season.
To get ready for tonight’s game, I talked to Ben York, a fan/blogger turned Digital Content Editor for the Mercury and the Suns. If anyone knows the Mercury, it’s Ben, so I asked him five questions leading up to the game.
1. Former Stars coach Sandy Brondello is now the head coach for the Mercury. Have you noticed any immediate differences with her at the helm and how is the team responding early on?
The attention to detail that Brondello brings every single day has inspired confidence throughout the entire team. There’s a quiet sense of assurance that each player has, and that has allowed them to play freely and assertive (at least, thus far). With Brondello coaching several Mercury players overseas (Taurasi, Kobryn, Jekabsone-Zogota) and having a previous relationship with others on the Australian National Team (Phillips, Taylor), there is more familiarity and comfort to start the season which has made the learning curve less dramatic.
2. While Brittney Griner had a nice rookie season, there were some inconsistencies in her game, but she has been very impressive through two games, and she seems to be doing it at both ends. What steps or changes have you seen her take coming into her second year?
Brittney wasn’t happy with her rookie season in the league, and she’ll be the first to tell you that. During the offseason, she dedicated herself to becoming stronger in the post and adding muscle. But I think the factor that has most contributed to her stellar play so far has been familiarity (that seems to be the theme here). She knows what to expect in the league now and has been able to develop a routine for the season that works for her. Plus, the system that Brondello has instilled allows Griner to do her thing on the block.
3. Speaking of Brittney, she had huge games against San Antonio last season, and the task of defending her is a big one. What will Jayne Appel, Danielle Adams and others have to do to be able to limit her from having another big game?
One thing the Mercury tried to do this offseason is add more shooters along the perimeter. Last year, Phoenix shot just 30 percent from the 3-point line which drastically affected their offense. It meant that opposing defenses could focus more on double-teaming Griner without a threat of effectiveness from beyond the arc. This year, with Griner becoming more confident in how she controls the block in the WNBA combined with legitimate options along the perimeter, it’s translated into more a more efficient offense. Still, Phoenix needs to limit turnovers if they expect that trend to continue (they turned the ball over 21 times in their win against the Sparks).
4. Kayla McBride was expected to be coming off the bench this season, but with the injury to Becky Hammon, she’s been inserted at the three. Tonight, she likely draws Diana Taurasi. Is there anything Kayla can do to keep Diana from her second 20+ point game this season or does this truly become her “welcome to the WNBA” moment?
I don’t envy any player having to guard Diana Taurasi. Not only is she obviously skilled from any position on the floor, Taurasi’s basketball IQ is off the charts. She knows exactly when to attack or when to keep the offense moving and create for others. That said, McBride’s athleticism and size translate well to the WNBA game. The key for McBride, however, is not getting frustrated or into foul trouble.
5. The Mercury have a lot of players getting minutes at point guard. What do you think the plan is for defending Danielle Robinson tonight? The Mercury brought in Erin Phillips to help defensively. Do you see her getting more minutes or will it be defense by committee?
Erin has already brought a tough, defensive mentality to the point guard position that the Mercury has been missing in recent years. But Danielle Robinson is so quick and effective that weak-side help and proper defensive rotations will be mandatory for the Mercury or Robinson will surely make them pay. For the Mercury to win, they’ll have to get back in transition and control the boards in order to limit Robinson’s creativity.