Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner will be absent from her team for at least two games “to focus on her mental health,” the WNBA team announced Saturday.
Griner will not travel with the Mercury to Chicago and Indiana for upcoming road games against the Sky and Fever on Sunday and Tuesday, respectively. The Mercury return home to Phoenix to face the Atlanta Dream on Thursday, but it is unclear when Griner will return to the lineup.
“The Mercury fully supports Brittney and we will continue to work together on a timetable for her return,” the team said in a statement Saturday.
Griner is averaging 18.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists in her first season back with the Mercury since missing the entire 2022 WNBA season while unjustly detained in Russia for almost 10 months. Ahead of the season, Griner explained how the international ordeal affected his mental state.
“You’re going to face adversity throughout your life — this one was pretty significant,” Griner said in April. “You find a way to get by. You just put your head down and keep going, keep moving forward. You can never stand still, and that was my theme. Never stand still. Never be too focused on the present moment. , look forward to it.”
WNBA ALL-STAR GAME:Jewell Loyd sets scoring record, Brittney Griner dunks again
Griner made her eighth All-Star appearance earlier this month and had three dunks during the WNBA All-Star Game, where her comeback was the main storyline of the night.
The WNBA opted for a subtle tribute with a “Welcome Back” message on the jumbotron during the WNBA All-Star Game. She received loud applause from the crowd during introductions, enjoyed a snow cone on the bench during the game and even snuck out during halftime with her teammates to watch entertainer Kehlani.
“Receiving this ovation and all the memories that I can cherish means everything to the world,” Griner said. “I’m just happy to be here in this building. All-Star is a fun time where we can be together…Just being here with them after what they did to support me through one of the hardest times means everything.”
Despite Griner’s dominant performance this season, the Mercury have been far from great. Phoenix is 6-17 heading into Sunday’s game and head coach Vanessa Nygaard as a result, was fired at the end of June. Senior assistant coach Nikki Blue has been elevated to interim head coach for the remainder of the 2023 season.