While walking to my desk nearly three months before the 2014 WNBA season started, the familiar sound of a bouncing basketball reverberated throughout an otherwise inaudible arena.
"Odd," I thought while subsequently checking my watch. "Barely past 8 a.m. and the Suns are on a road trip..."
I sit just outside of what fans probably know as the Verve Lounge. My curiosity got the best of me, so I took a peek high above the main floor of a dimly lit US Airways Center to see who was hoopin" so early.
"Oh, it's just Penny."
Looking back, I remember thinking how absurdly self-absorbed that thought was. It's "just Penny." As if her being there was no big deal.
I've made a conscious effort not to speak to Taylor about her knee injuries or rehabilitation unless it comes up naturally in a conversation. With her journey back to the hardwood being such an arduous process, often times there isn't any relevant, new information or updates.
After all, she's been asked about her health ad nauseam over the past few years and neither her injuries nor the game of basketball define her. Her resilience and optimism, however, do.
More than what she has accomplished on the floor, Taylor is someone I personally admire and greatly respect as a human being. If I'm honest, I'm not certain I would've been able to endure what Taylor has on a personal and professional level and still humbly wear a smile on my face.
But Penny does. That's how she instinctively functions. She doesn't complain; she acts. If something is wrong, she works to fix it.
In this particular case during her early morning workout, Taylor would shoot a jumper from the top of the key, run to get her own rebound, and shoot another jumper from a different spot on the floor. This process would be repeated over and over again.
And she loved it. It may not seem like much, but for Taylor it evoked a sense of freedom. Progress, rather.
"It's tough, sure," Penny Taylor said pithily after that long day of training and rehab. "I can't explain it, but there's something inside of me that keeps telling me I can do it. To keep pushing. I know that I can get back to the level I used to be at.
"I know it."
The "old" Penny.
Admittedly, it's a weird descriptor for someone who is only 33-years-old, but that's exactly what we are seeing on floor for the Phoenix Mercury in 2014.
With the Mercury 16-3 on the year, Taylor has appeared in all 19 games after seeing action in just 10 of a possible 68 games from 2012-13. Since joining DeWanna Bonner, Candice Dupree, Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi in the starting lineup on June 15, the team is 10-0.
Perhaps more encouraging, Taylor has averaged 13.0 points in those 10 games, is shooting 49 percent from the field on the season, 40 percent from the three-point line, has scored in double-figures in eight consecutive contests and averages about 22 minutes of action each game.
But it's not the merely the stats she's putting up, it's how she is efficiently moving on the floor. Taylor looks fearless (as she has always been) and routinely makes cuts to the hoop while stopping on a dime " signs of increasing health and confidence.
'she really does look like the Penny of old," Sandy Brondello said after Sunday's win over the Stars. 'she's always a spark doing what she does. It's great to see her on the floor and she's been a tremendous help to the success we've had.
"Knowing Penny, I expect that to continue."
There are very few people that can make you feel significantly better simply by being in their presence.
Penny Taylor is one of those rare individuals. That is to say, the way she carries herself is a shining example of why you should never say that you can't do something, or that something seems unattainable.
Taylor never allowed herself to be limited by negative thoughts or pessimism no matter how discouraging her situation seemed, and her play on the court this season has been nothing short of inspiring.
No matter what happens moving forward, those are heartfelt qualities that everyone can root for.