Griner return to Mercury 'a special day for all of us'

National Basketball Association

The Phoenix Mercury told Brittney Griner she was "missed every day that she was gone" as her return to the team was officially confirmed on Tuesday.

Reports over the weekend revealed Griner was signing a one-year contract to rejoin the Mercury for the 2023 season, and that deal was announced in a team statement.

Griner spent the first nine seasons of her career in Phoenix but missed the entirety of the 2022 campaign after she was detained in Russia for 10 months.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist was arrested at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport in February 2022 for bringing under a gram of cannabis oil into the country in vape cartridges.

Griner said she made an "honest mistake", with her lawyers arguing she was using the cannabis for medicinal purposes and was unaware of its illegal status in Russia.

She was subsequently jailed for nine years for drug possession and drug smuggling with criminal intent but was released in December in a prisoner exchange that saw convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout return to Russia.

Back in the United States, Griner quickly outlined her desire to return to the Mercury, and the team were delighted to do that deal.

"It's a great day for all of us to announce that Brittney Griner has officially signed to play for the Mercury in 2023," general manager Jim Pitman said.

"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 organisation and within our community was greatly missed.

"We will continue to use the resources of our organisation 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."

Griner is a two-time WNBA scoring champion, averaging 17.7 points per game for her career.