UConn legend Diana Taurasi discusses free agency negotiations with Phoenix Mercury; future uncertain

UConn women’s basketball legend Diana Taurasi, an unrestricted free agent, has yet to agree to terms with the Phoenix Mercury for the 2023 WNBA season. The 40-year-old said Tuesday that her intention is to re-sign with the only team she’s played for across her 18-year WNBA career, but also left open the possibility that things could play out elsewise.

“We’re in ongoing discussions,” Taurasi said during a media availability at USA Basketball’s national team minicamp. “I think as a franchise we’re in a in an interesting position right now with a lot of different things going on from ownership to all the way down. So I just think it’s something that’s it’s taking it’s time and hopefully will be resolved on my end sooner than later.”

When asked if there’s a chance that she doesn’t return for the Mercury, Taurasi left things a bit more open-ended than one might expect.

“I expect to (re-sign),” Taurasi said. “That’s something that I’ve said for a long time is finishing my career in Phoenix is something that I have a lot of respect for and something that I want to do, but you never know what can happen in this world, right? As we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks anything can happen.”

The Phoenix Suns organization, which owns the Mercury, announced new ownership on Tuesday. The NBA Board of Governors approved the sale of the team to billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia on Monday night.

“Right now all my intention is to re-sign,” Taurasi said. “I think as an organization we have a lot of things to sort out, so I think those are all in the works right now. Obviously, introducing Mat as our new owner I think it’s going to be an amazing thing for not only the city of Phoenix but both the Suns and the Mercury changing the direction and the trajectory of both of our franchises in a lot of ways, so I’m excited about that.

“So yeah, once things get ironed out, hope to be back. That’s home for me, that’s the only jersey I’ve ever worn. But at the same time, as we’ve seen this past week, anything can happen in the sports world.”

Taurasi said she met Ishbia and his kids recently. She seemed impressed with the new owner from their conversation.

“There’s a reason why he’s been able to be so successful,” Taurasi said. “In one conversation he has this energy and this drive about him that you can you feel just being in the gym with him. And I had a great conversation with him another day. I think it’s just gonna put our franchises in the direction that we want to go into the future. I think he has all the intentions to make sure that the Suns and Phoenix Mercury are are going to pave the way in a lot of different sectors of life as a franchise.”

While some WNBA stars took pay cuts this offseason to form super teams, Taurasi indicated that isn’t something she would be willing to do. “I don’t know about that,” Taurasi said. “I’m not one to take less money.”

The former Husky made $228,094 last season, tied for the most of any player in the league along with Jewell Lloyd and Breanna Stewart. Taurasi reflected on that 2022 campaign on Tuesday.

“Last season for for a lot of reasons nor here or there, I didn’t feel like I brought the best version of myself,” Taurasi said. “I feel like there was glimpses of days where I’m like, ‘Ah, this is still pretty easy.’ And there was days where I’m like, ‘I’d rather be somewhere else.’ So this is just another challenge for me in approaching this season with a different mindset, and I’m excited about that.”

Set to turn 41 in June, keeping her body in shape so she can continue to be able to play remains a central focus for Taurasi at this point in her career.

“It’s a daily grind,” Taurasi said. “It’s something that I’ve focused my whole life on, trying to be as healthy as I can be to be on the court, to make sure I’m available to my kids and my family. It’s been something that in the last four or five years has really consumed my life in making sure I do everything possible to be on the court. And I continue to do that now. It’s something that I find is a challenge and I like to do it, and we’ll go from there.”

Taurasi averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game last season. With fellow UConn legend Sue Bird now enjoying her retirement, Taurasi will be the oldest player in the league in 2023. Though they still talk every day, she’s missed having Bird at the mini camp in Minneapolis.

“It was really strange getting here and not having Sue,” Taurasi said. “Usually right now we’re having coffee and talking for about three hours and then we have dinner and then we have another coffee and we talk for another two hours. So when you’re best friend’s not on the team anymore, it is a little bit strange, but I’ll have to find someone else to bug.”