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Diana Taurasi embraces one more chance at US team; Caitlin Clark's time will come

DT vs. CC is the best rivalry in all of sports.

Who cares if it’s fueled by traditional media, social media or it’s in medias res? (That’s a literary term for starting a story at the moment of most peril, which is what I’m trying to do here.)

The latest turn in the old guard vs. young lion blood feud between Diana Taurasi and Caitlin Clark centers on a leaked roster from Team USA, showing the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer on the squad at the expense of Caitlin Clark.

The official roster hasn’t been released, yet. But Taurasi on Monday told The Arizona Republic just how much it would mean for her to play in Paris this summer.

USA player Diana Taurasi (12) is seen as USA plays Nigeria during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Saitama Super Arena on July 27, 2021.
USA player Diana Taurasi (12) is seen as USA plays Nigeria during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Saitama Super Arena on July 27, 2021.

“I have my fingers crossed,” Taurasi said. “I’ve been lucky enough to be on five of ’em. What an honor it is to put that jersey on. I’ve worn the UConn jersey, which is close to my heart. Obviously, this Mercury jersey means so much to me, and to this city, with how much this city loves basketball, and to the fans because of how much they love basketball.

“But the USA? That USA jersey is something different. It’s for our whole country. It’s an honor. And we treat that with a lot of respect. When you’re overseas, playing against the world, they’re coming for something.”

On the world stage, they’re coming for your head.

'Reality is coming': Diana Taurasi was right about Caitlin Clark

It started in Atlanta

The U.S. women have won seven consecutive gold medals, starting in Atlanta in 1996. That team made women’s basketball into the revenue-generating behemoth it is today.

The WNBA grew out of the popularity of players such as Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie and Rebecca Lobo.

Dawn Staley, the best coach in college basketball, came from that group and has been considered a legitimate candidate for NBA head coaching jobs in Washington and Charlotte.

It’s something younger basketball fans might take for granted, but it would have been unimaginable for anyone old enough to consider such things in 1996.

The popularity of women’s basketball has grown with each Olympic cycle since, and that’s why a player such as Caitlin Clark can even exist.

Clark is an incredible talent. There’s no mistake about that. There’s a good reason she has more endorsements than a presidential candidate, and she’s the most popular rookie in the history of the sport.

Clark is 14th in the league in scoring at 16.8 points per game, just a tick ahead of Taurasi (16.6.).

Clark and Taurasi are tied for fourth in 3-pointers made per game.

And Clark is fourth in assists, although she leads the league in turnovers — and it’s not especially close.

But Clark is a rookie. And the stakes are entirely too high internationally to be rewarding potential and popularity with a Team USA roster spot.

Mercury legend Nancy Lieberman: Players 'need to thank' Caitlin Clark

The leaked roster didn’t have Angel Reese, either.

Taurasi, for her part, has been impressed with the WNBA’s most heavily scrutinized rookie class of all time.

“They’re in such a unique position … with the microscope that they’ve been under for the last four years and what they did in college and coming into the WNBA,” Taurasi said. “The way they’ve handled it, it’s been amazing.

“They’re only gonna get better. And if you take a step back, they’ve been professionals for a month and a half. It’s such a small sample size of what their careers are gonna look like. And they’re only gonna get better, week by week and month by month.

“Obviously, Caitlin and Angel have been on the forefront of that, but when you talk about what Cameron Brink has been able to do and Rickea Jackson, it’s just a talented class. You can tell they love the game of basketball, which I really admire about them.”

The big debate: Social media questions Griner over Clark Olympics pick

You've got to pay your dues

Their turn is coming.

But they’ve got to pay some dues and prove themselves first. All the great ones do, including Taurasi.

“I remember my first USA Olympic practice,” she said. “We were doing a shooting drill, and Katie Smith goes, ‘Dee.’ I’m like, ‘Yes, Katie.’”

Taurasi was a kid fresh out of college and wasn’t about to get chesty with one of the greatest scoring guards ever to play.

“She goes, ‘Your shorts are bigger than mine. I want those. … Let me get your shorts.’”

Taurasi said they traded shorts right there on the practice court.

And later that summer?

“We won a gold medal,” Taurasi said. And years after that, Taurasi passed Smith on the all-time scoring list.

This now is Clark’s challenge. To eventually pass up Taurasi. Just don’t expect DT or anyone else to make it easy.

DT vs. CC is the best rivalry in all of sports, and it’s going to stay like that for a long, long time.

Reach Moore at gmoore@azcentral.com or 602-444-2236. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @SayingMoore.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Diana Taurasi vs. Caitlin Clark rivalry takes Olympic turn