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Mercury ‘optimistic’ that Brittney Griner will return to WNBA

Brittney Griner drives on Amanda Zahui B. during a game between the Mercury and Sparks. (Meg Oliphant / Getty Images)

The Phoenix Mercury have a roster spot for Brittney Griner, if she wants it.

When the 32-year-old landed in Texas last week, Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard was overcome with relief, joy and love, she told the Wall Street Journal.

Griner had spent nearly 10 months imprisoned in Russia. Now that she’s back in the United States, the Mercury and the WNBA are doing what they can to support her mental and physical recovery.

Griner’s health is the most important thing, Nygaard said. But if she wants to play basketball again, the Mercury will welcome her back with open arms.

Her contract with the team ended after the 2022 season, so Griner is technically a free agent, but Phoenix has no plans to fill her roster spot. It’s being reserved for No. 42.

“There is no contingency where we end up not having room for her,” team president Vince Kozar said.

Griner made a triumphant return to the basketball court Sunday in San Antonio. She hadn’t touched a ball since the start of her detainment back in February, but her skills were still there. Griner’s first shot was a dunk.

Basketball is clearly on Griner’s mind, and Kozar said he is “very optimistic” about a potential return to the WNBA, he said. Still, he told the Wall Street Journal that there is no rush for her to return to playing professionally.

It’s 100% a matter of her making that decision for herself,” he said. “There’s no timetable, there’s no rush.”