In 2014, Phoenix has opened a season 2-0 for the fourth time in franchise history (1998, 2000, 2009) and for the first time since the team's last championship season in 2009. The Mercury can open a season 3-0 for just the second time all-time, matching the 1998 team for the best start in franchise history. This stat and more in the #MercuryVsStars game preview.
In case you missed it, the WNBA will be the first professional sports league to establish an integrated marketing, media, grassroots and social responsibility program for the LGBT community including a new special site, WNBA.com/pride where league and team Pride content, events and schedules will be posted throughout the season. Information will also be shared on the league's social media channels where the content will be aggregated with the hashtag #wnbapride.
New Phoenix Mercury Assistant Coach Todd Troxel is 5-foot-9.
NBA legend Yao Ming is 7-foot-6.
After working with Ming for a significant period of time, Troxel has been cited as a major factor in Ming's development, awareness and impressive footwork in the paint. Troxel has also worked with NBA players O.J. Mayo and Joel Przybilla.
Proof that basketball knowledge trumps size.
Over the past eight years, however, Troxel has traveled all over the world developing hundreds of collegiate and professional players, both men and women.
Mercury fans may have heard about Troxel and his extensive work with Diana Taurasi before and during the 2009 season which eventually led to an MVP for Taurasi and the team's second WNBA Championship.
Looking back, Taurasi is quick to credit Troxel for comprehensively impacting both her game and overall health.
"Oh, he was huge"not literally, of course," Taurasi jokingly said of Troxel's impact, not his height. "All kidding aside, he really helped transform my entire body along with my eating habits. That season  was when I really started to make a change and learn how to take much better care of myself.
"It's become who I am now."
Troxel will help with player development on the Mercury, as well as video coordination. Not only does he have a passion for the game, he's also an incredibly friendly guy and more than willing to talk shop at any time.
This season, Troxel and the coaching staff hope to create tangible goals to help each player grow. Troxel unquestionably has the knowledge and tools to train anyone, but a player also needs an insatiable work ethic to truly make a difference in their game.
'that's really the key," Troxel said. "It's easy to say you want to get better but it's another thing to put in the work to do it. Diana [Taurasi] has it and I think Brittney [Griner] does, too."
See the full, exclusive interview with Troxel below.
The 5-6 rookie guard out of Oklahoma State (the No. 17 pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft by the Mercury) is having an impressive training camp, and soaking up wisdom from Diana Taurasi and the entire coaching staff.
Not only is she one of the first players to arrive every morning, she's also one of the last to leave. It may sound simple, but that type of work ethic shows the veterans and coaching staff that Bias is taking camp seriously.
Yes, she's incredibly quick with the ball and her court vision is remarkable for a rookie, but her greatest asset might very well be her infectiously positive attitude and willingness to accept feedback " while working to improve every day.
"I'm fast," Bias said with a smile when asked how she would describe her game. "I can get out in transition and on the break. I think that's what differentiates me " pushing the ball and looking for that open shot."
Entering a WNBA training camp can be fraught with the unknown for rookies. And while overwhelming at times, the keys are to keep moving forward and always playing as hard as humanly possible. Bias said her anxiousness was quickly alleviated once she discovered firsthand how helpful and positive the team and coaches are.
"I was nervous," Bias added. "I didn't know what to expect. You kind of just want to get in there and see what it's all about. The girls are really cool and welcoming and have helped us out a lot. When Diana [Taurasi] came back, she really helped me. Erin [Phillips] has helped me transition from the college level to the professional level.
"Everyone as a whole group has really helped me transition."
See the full, exclusive interview with Bias below.
Every team constantly works on their defense throughout the year.
The difference, however, is how they do so.
In Sandy Brondello's system, working on defense begins with the absolute smallest of details. From the angle the players have their feet planted to how to properly work around pick-and-rolls from various locations on the floor, Brondello wants the Mercury to be aggressive (but smart) on the defensive end.
'do the most aggressive thing," Brondello said when asked what she constantly tells the team during practice. "But that doesn't mean to not play smart because that is just as detrimental as playing lazy. We're working on positioning, footwork, weak side help and rotations from a bunch of different scenarios and spots on the court."
The results speak for themselves.
Brondello has a unique method of getting directly to the point while also being constructive. That, in turn, leaves zero doubt in players" minds about what they're supposed to do. There's no confusion or misunderstandings, and the players have already bought into the system and the principles within it.
'she's been great and knows exactly what she wants the team to on both ends of the floor," Assistant Coach Julie Hairgrove said of Brondello. "Being confident in that and seeing it play out on the floor has been good for the team. They buy into it and can take their play to another level, especially defensively."
Other Notes: Shay Murphy had an impressive day of camp. Murphy has demonstrated her ability to slash to the rim but also has shown to be prolific from the perimeter. Diana Taurasi was more vocal today (I counted a total of 48 high-fives in a span of 30 minutes). Erin Phillips had an amazing play where she stole the ball and went the length of the court to finish with an acrobatic layup.
When Diana Taurasi is on the floor, practice is instinctively elevated to a new level entirely.
Such was the case on Monday, Taurasi's first official practice with the team.
A true leader is one who can lead both by example and vocally. In Taurasi's case, that couldn't be more accurate. Her mere presence in the gym gets people motivated in the most positive of ways. Anything she says to her teammates is constructive and positive followed by a high-five or fist-bump.
In other words, typical Dee.
Yet encouragement like that from a living legend can do wonders for a team. It shouldn't be unexpected, then, that today's practice was probably the most productive and impressive of camp thus far.
"When we come out on this court it's a different feeling. You're playing for a whole city. That feels really good. That's what keeps me coming back " these fans, this organization."
Surprisingly, Taurasi looked completely refreshed at practice today. Remarkable, considering she ended a grueling season overseas less than a week ago that culminated in another Russian League Championship. The fact that she left Phoenix for Russia just days after the team's playoff run ended in 2013 makes it even more amazing.
'the minute I get to Phoenix, I have to be in the gym," Taurasi said. 'sandy [Brondello] told me not to come in for a few days and chill out. But I want to be in the gym. I want to be with my teammates. I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life."
Other Notes: Penny Taylor continues to look good and make progress in practice. Tiffany Bias had an impressive stretch when she hit a 3-pointer and came back to make a tough defensive stop on the other end. New addition Shay Murphy and veteran Krystal Thomas were at camp today fresh off their impressive season in Spain playing for Perfumerias.
Those four words describe Brittney Griner's training camp perfectly.
The second year, 6-8 center has been hugely impressive in Mercury practices this week on both ends of the floor, setting an indelible tone for the season. More specifically, Griner has looked quicker on offense and more assertive on defense.
Indeed, these perceived "little things" could be a direct correlation with all of the hard work she put in during the offseason to increase her strength and mobility.
'she's a sponge," Sandy Brondello said about Griner. "What an incredible player. She is just scratching the surface of things she can do in this league. I'm super excited to continue working with her."
Case in point: Griner dunked powerfully today during a two-on-one fast break. Sure, the dunk was nice but it was the process that made it spectacular. That is to say, dunking was the only way of scoring the ball based on the position her body was in.
She wasn't dunking just to dunk; it was necessary.
"I want to win," Griner said after day five of training camp. 'that's it. I'll do anything it takes. I think I'm already feeling more comfortable with everything " the team, city, all of it. I know what to expect. My job now is to prepare myself the best way possible to help my team win."
Other Notes: Today's practice was, by far, the most fluid and intense of camp so far. Brondello continued to add dimensions of her offense to the squad while also working on conditioning. Her practices are detail oriented, but always active. Hallie Christofferson has looked increasingly better every day " a hustler. Alexis Gray-Lawson was vocal and aggressive on offense today, more so than previous days. Tiffany Bias and Maggie Lucas continue to impress.
If she felt jetlagged, Phoenix Mercury Head Coach Sandy Brondello certainly didn't show any signs of it.
Impressive, considering she was in Russia less than 30 hours prior.
To put things in perspective, a conservative travel time estimate from Russia to Phoenix is about 20 hours.
It's widely known that this is simply part of the business in professional women's basketball, but that's not much consolation when you take into account the enormous toll their schedule can take on their bodies year after year.
Brondello is an assistant coach for UMMC in Russia during the WNBA's offseason. Along with current Mercury players Diana Taurasi, Ewelina Kobryn and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota UMMC beat DeWanna Bonner's Nadezhda Orenburg for the Russian League Championship on Tuesday, April 29.
Amazingly, today, Brondello was energetic, engaged and spirited as she flawlessly led her first official Mercury practice.
That is to say, her excitement seemed to trump any fatigue.
"I feel fine," Brondello said genuinely with a smile. "I'm just so excited to be back here in Phoenix and to finally get everything going. The girls really got after it today.
"We went a bit longer than I had planned and I was really pleased with their effort."
Brondello's goal, at least in the interim, is to develop as much cohesiveness as possible before the rest of the team arrives. Having been an assistant coach with UMMC, she has somewhat of a head start " at least familiarity wise " with Taurasi, Kobryn and Jekabsone-Zogota.
Nevertheless, there are many new faces on this Mercury roster and she's tasked with making them all come together in a relatively short amount of time.
"We have a lot of new pieces," Brondello added. "It's more about developing chemistry. Obviously, getting used to me, me getting used to them, and then going from there."
See the full, exclusive first interview with Phoenix Mercury Head Coach Sandy Brondello below.
Julie Hairgrove has one of the best basketball minds I've ever been around.
It should be no surprise, then, that training camp has been consistent, intense and spirited with Hairgrove running things until Mercury Head Coach Sandy Brondello arrives (which is very, very soon).
Hairgrove has always been this type of coach, an unselfish leader who blends seamlessly with any core of players and coaching staff. And though she's typically been more behind the scenes, her insight about the x's and o's of basketball have been invaluable to the team for many years.
"Julie [Hairgrove] has been great," Brittney Griner said. 'she's really helped both this year and last year in terms of where the defense is going to be and the spots I need to go to on offense.
"But she's just a really great person first and foremost."
In terms of this year's camp specifically, Hairgrove's focus has been mainly on getting the team in shape while also starting to incorporate some of the offensive and defensive sets that Brondello likes to run.
"It's been a very competitive camp," Hairgrove added. 'they've really gotten after it and I appreciate the effort from everybody."
Watch behind the scenes action with Hairgrove at Mercury training camp below.
For rookies in the WNBA, training camp is an experience unlike anything they've ever been through.
Camps begin just days after hearing their name called at the WNBA Draft which is typically only a couple of weeks after their grueling collegiate seasons come to a close.
Furthermore, they'll immediately face players that are " at least in the interim " bigger, faster and stronger.
Future legends and current All-Stars.
Indeed, from an objective point of view, the only option many rookies have is to come into camp fearless, motivated and in shape.
It should be hugely encouraging, then, that Tiffany Bias (the No. 17 pick) and Maggie Lucas (the No. 21 pick) have exemplified that mentality over the first few days of Mercury camp.
It's impossible not to notice the fire and intensity that Tiffany Bias plays with. The 5-6 guard out of Oklahoma State has been vocal, positive and receptive to feedback " qualities that every successful rookie has.
The same has been true for Penn State's Maggie Lucas. As soon as she heard her name called at the 2014 WNBA Draft, there was a brief moment of celebration followed by a conscious, innate desire to work even harder.
"I got to work right away," she said.
Check out the full, exclusive interview with Lucas below.
To put the next few weeks in perspective, here's a brief timeline of the Mercury's schedule prior to the home opener on May 17.
For the next 10 days or so, they'll have training camp on the main floor of US Airways Center (the practice court is being resurfaced). They'll then head to Orlando to take part in the first-ever WNBA preseason tournament from May 9-11 followed by another week of practice before the Seattle Storm comes to town on Saturday, May 17.
The key, then, is balancing a mandatory need to get everyone in tip-top shape while also keeping the team fresh and healthy for the start of the season.
Luckily for the Mercury, there are several familiar faces already in Phoenix participating in training camp including Penny Taylor, Brittney Griner, Briana Gilbreath (Butler), Erin Phillips and Alexis Gray-Lawson.
Indeed, those were the faces that elevated camp to another level, led by Erin Phillips.
Even within the first few minutes of drills, Phillips" leadership " both vocally and by example " set an indelible tone for the entire camp.
"I think that's where I'm needed the most," Phillips said about her game management. 'my goal this training camp is to provide energy and intensity on both ends of the floor. As a point guard, that's what my role, ultimately, should be."
In fact, nearly 30 minutes after practice ended, Phillips was still on the court getting some extra shots up. PhoenixMercury.com was fortunate enough to record 13 3-point makes in a row by Phillips. Check out the exclusive video above.
Other Notes: Brittney Griner looked much more comfortable at the start of her second training camp. Having that comfort and familiarity will be a major asset for the second year pro. Maggie Lucas is automatic from anywhere near the 3-point line. Tiffany Bias is incredibly quick with the ball, and has a consistently upbeat attitude.
As the Mercury officially begins the 2014 season, there are a few new faces that the X-Factor will hear about over the course of the next couple of weeks.
For a complete guide to the entire offseason, click here. Below, you'll find a quick introduction to each player (the hyperlinks go to the player's official Twitter account).
Mistie Bass: A 6-3 forward that was signed by the team as a free agent in the offseason. Bass provides toughness and frontcourt depth. She's also one of the best follows on Twitter.
Tiffany Bias: A 5-6 guard out of Oklahoma State drafted by the Mercury with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft. Quick, good handles.
DeWanna Bonner: A 6-4 guard/forward, Bonner will be used as more of a slashing presence in Brondello's offense.
Hallie Christofferson: A forward from Iowa State signed to the team's training camp roster.
Candice Dupree: In spite of recent reports otherwise, Candice does not have a Twitter account. The 6-2 forward had another solid season overseas in Russia. Brondello mentioned that Dupree is one of the players she looks forward to working with the most.
Briana Butler (Gilbreath): Congratulations, Briana! Gilbreath (now Butler) got married in the offseason. The 6-0 guard will be relied on for defense and depth.
Alexis Gray-Lawson: Gray-Lawson, a familiar name to Mercury fans, returns to the training camp roster in 2014. The 5-8 guard will certainly be relied on to score the ball, undoubtedly her greatest strength.
Brittney Griner: Isn't it amazing that just over one year ago, Griner was selected by the Mercury with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft? The 6-8 center played in China during the offseason, was the Grand Marshal in the Phoenix Pride Parade and wrote a book. Not bad, right? Griner's overseas season ended several weeks ago so she'll be rested and ready to go for training camp.
Chelsea Hopkins: A 5-8 guard out of San Diego State, Hopkins will battle fellow guards Maggie Lucas, Alexis Gray-Lawson and Tiffany Bias in training camp.
Anete Jekabsone-Zogota: A 5-9 sharp-shooting guard from Latvia currently playing with Taurasi and Brondello in Russia, Jekabsone-Zogota adds perimeter depth for the Mercury.
Ewelina Kobryn: Also playing with Jekabsone-Zogota, Taurasi and Brondello in Russia, Kobryn is a tough, blue-collar 6-4 center that immediately makes the Mercury much more physical in the frontcourt.
Maggie Lucas: The No. 21 overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft, the 5-10 guard is also one of the best 3-point shooters on the team.
Shay Murphy: A 5-11 slashing, combo guard, Murphy provides backcourt depth for the Mercury and speed along the perimeter.
Erin Phillips: A proven leader and winner, the 5-8 Phillips was, perhaps, the team's biggest acquisition in the offseason. Phillips' ability to run the offense and lock-down the opposing team's point guard will be invaluable for the Mercury in 2014.
April Sykes: A 6-0 guard/forward, Sykes is signed to the Mercury's training camp roster.
Diana Taurasi: She needs no introduction. DT3, 6-0, returns to the Mercury for her 11th season. Her overseas team (UMMC) is in the Russian League Finals against DeWanna Bonner's Nadezhda Orenburg.
Penny Taylor: The 6-1 forward, one of the best players to ever lace 'em up, has worked extremely hard in rehab during the offseason. Taylor feels/looks good and continues to make progress back to the court.
Krystal Thomas: After playing with Shay Murphy in Spain during the offseason, the 6-5 center returns to Phoenix for her fourth year with the team.