Brittney Griner officially signs 1-year deal to return to Mercury
Brittney Griner is officially back with the Phoenix Mercury after signing a one-year, $165,100 deal to return to the court after her 10-month imprisonment in Russia.
After news of Griner's deal with the team was reported Saturday by Richard Cohen of Her Hoop Stats, the team officially announced the deal on Tuesday.
“It’s a great day for all of us to announce that Brittney Griner has officially signed to play for the Mercury in 2023," Phoenix general manager Jim Pitman said in a statement. "We missed BG every day that she was gone and, while basketball was not our primary concern, her presence on the floor, in our locker room, around our organization, and within our community was greatly missed. We will continue to use the resources of our organization to support her, on and off the floor, and we are thrilled for her that she gets to return to basketball, which she loves so dearly. This is a special signing and today is a special day for all of us.”
Per Cohen, the deal is reportedly structured to give the Mercury enough salary cap space to fit two veteran minimum and two base minimum contracts for next season.
The signing came the same day the Mercury answered another major question mark of their offseason with Diana Taurasi's multi-year deal to return for a 19th WNBA season. Prior to that, their biggest move so far had been trading Diamond DeShields in a four-team deal that landed them former Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere.
Griner's return to the Mercury was expected after she vowed to play for the team during the 2023 season upon her return from Russia:
I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon.
Griner was released from Russian prison on Dec. 8 as part of an exchange that saw the U.S. free convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout from federal prison. Griner had been sentenced to nine years in prison after being arrested in February when Russian airport officials said they found hash oil in her luggage. She pleaded guilty to drug possession charges and was later convicted of drug possession and smuggling.
Since her return, Griner has been working out with sporadic public appearances. She and her wife Cherelle were in attendance at Super Bowl LVII in Arizona.