Brittney Griner recognized with WNBA moment of silence
On Saturday, the Phoenix Mercury played their first home game since star center Brittney Griner was sentenced to prison for nine years in Russia.
Griner was arrested in February when officials found cannabis oil cartridges in her luggage. She pled guilty to the charges in July.
Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard says the team’s fans have shown great support throughout the season.
“You can feel their love of our team," Nygaard said. "They know that it’s a tough year for us with the BG situation, and they’ve seen how hard it is over the last couple of days. Every time I’m out somewhere, someone says something to me about BG, and I’m sure that same thing happens to the players.”
Before the Connecticut Sun beat the Phoenix Mercury 77-64, players from both teams met at midcourt and silently bowed their heads for 42 seconds — a nod to Griner's jersey number with the Mercury.
“Nobody wanted to even play today,” said Phoenix guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, who scored 16 points to lead the Mercury. “How are you supposed to approach the game and court with a clear mind? The whole group is crying before the game. You try to honor her and still play hard for her. Regardless of whether she’s here or not. Right now, we still got to try and keep her spirit alive. Honor her spirit."
The Mercury watched the verdict together in the morning right before the team had its pregame shootaround.
“I mean, it's like you're waiting for a bomb to drop watching it, seeing her behind bars,” Mercury guard Diamond DeShields said.
Diggins added that it was “a helpless feeling. It's heavy.”
“Obviously, it’s devastating,” DeShields said. “You can’t say anything other than that. I know personally, I'm really proud to be part of this group and the way they showed up and came out and played. We approached the game tonight with a heavy heart, as we have every game this season.”
Sun coach Curt Miller wore a “WE ARE BG” t-shirt.
Griner’s lawyers say they will appeal the nine-year sentence, calling the verdict “absolutely unreasonable.”