Subsequent steps for Mercury after Sarver NBA, WNBA Phoenix exits

The Phoenix Mercury have received three WNBA championships and have maybe the best participant within the historical past of ladies’s basketball.

Robert Sarver, the bulk proprietor of the Phoenix Suns and the Mercury, is promoting the franchises. The Suns are an attractive pinnacle property within the NBA in a warm-weather metropolis. However the Mercury — the NBA’s “sister” group — has the titles and is an unique WNBA group with one of many extra engaged fan bases.

There isn’t a assure the franchises might be bought collectively, though that seems to be Sarver’s intention, simply because it was for Minnesota Timberwolves/Minnesota Lynx proprietor Glen Taylor when he bought each franchises final yr.

The Mercury have been one among eight groups that launched the WNBA in 1997, all then owned by NBA groups. The WNBA expanded to permit outdoors possession (separate from NBA groups) beginning within the 2003 season. As of now, 5 of the 12 WNBA groups are affiliated with NBA groups: the Mercury, Lynx, Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Washington Mystics.

The brand new Mercury proprietor(s) will inherit a corporation that’s an integral a part of the league’s historical past. Phoenix has hosted a WNBA All-Star Sport (2014) and the Commissioner’s Cup closing (2021), and is famous for its fan assist.

However historical past is one factor; the current is not on steady floor with the franchises on the market. As soon as new possession takes over, management might be extra essential than ever.

The Mercury had an inordinate quantity of personnel battle this previous season and sooner or later will lose the face of the franchise and one of many faces of ladies’s basketball, Diana Taurasi. How a lot hands-on decision-making a brand new proprietor or possession group would wish to do with the Mercury stays to be seen. Longtime Suns/Mercury government Jim Pitman, the WNBA group’s basic supervisor since 2013, has been a part of the Mercury’s monetary selections for the reason that franchise was based.

Sarver purchased his share of the Suns and Mercury in April 2004, the identical month the Mercury drafted Taurasi No. 1 out of UConn. Now 40, Taurasi is the WNBA’s all-time main scorer and led the franchise to championships in 2007, 2009 and 2014. It is unsure how for much longer Taurasi will play, however the Mercury know a brand new period might be coming sooner somewhat than later.

Taurasi’s future, although, is much from the one concern the Mercury is dealing with. They let go of longtime coach Sandy Brondello final yr although she had taken the group to the 2021 WNBA Finals. The Mercury changed her with Vanessa Nygaard, a WNBA assistant whose solely earlier head teaching expertise was at the highschool degree. Additionally they signed middle Tina Charles and guard Diamond DeShields as free brokers, and at the very least initially it appeared to have a group that may strongly contend for the 2022 championship.

After which middle Brittney Griner, one other of Mercury’s former No. 1 picks, was arrested in February on drug expenses and has been detained in a Russian jail since, sentenced to 9 years in August. Then, stress was evident early within the season between Taurasi and fellow guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, and between Diggins-Smith and Nygaard. Charles then left the group in June in a contract divorce, becoming a member of the rival Seattle Storm. By the common season’s finish, Taurasi was sidelined by harm and Diggins-Smith had left the group for private causes whereas the Mercury have been within the midst of a playoff race.

The Mercury reached the postseason, shedding within the first spherical to eventual champion Las Vegas. Diggins-Smith is beneath contract for one more season, as are DeShields and starter Brianna Turner. However the remainder of the Mercury’s roster is in flux, and it appears the group may need to decide between holding Diggins-Smith or Nygaard if their relationship cannot be mended.

The Mercury have made the playoffs 14 of the previous 16 seasons, together with the previous 10. If the Suns and Mercury keep collectively, it’s going to present a continuity that the Mercury have thrived on since 1997. That hasn’t occurred for all WNBA groups whose NBA brethren have been bought or moved.

The Charlotte Sting have been additionally an unique WNBA franchise, owned by the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. However when the Hornets relocated to New Orleans, the Sting stayed in Charlotte, bought by Robert L. Johnson, principal proprietor of the enlargement Bobcats, who have been coming to that North Carolina metropolis. However the Sting have been disbanded after the 2006 WNBA season when the Bobcats now not wished to personal the group, citing low attendance.

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Ramona Shelburne lists potential new house owners of the Suns after Robert Sarver introduced his intention to promote the franchise.

When Clay Bennett purchased the Seattle SuperSonics in 2006, he additionally bought the WNBA’s Storm and owned them for the 2007 season. When a brand new area wasn’t inbuilt Seattle, Bennett moved the Sonics to Oklahoma Metropolis in 2008 to turn out to be the Thunder. The Storm have been bought to a neighborhood possession group, Drive 10 Hoops LLC, which stored the WNBA group in Seattle and nonetheless owns it. The Storm have been very profitable beneath impartial possession, successful three of their 4 championships for Drive 10.

Detroit Pistons and Shock proprietor Invoice Davidson died in March 2009, and later that yr the Shock have been bought to house owners in Tulsa. The Pistons went up on the market in 2010, and have been bought in 2011 to proprietor Tom Gores, who stored them in Detroit. The Shock performed in Tulsa from 2010-2015, after which relocated to Dallas in 2016 to turn out to be the Wings.

The Sacramento Monarchs, one other of the WNBA’s unique eight franchises, folded in late 2009 after the Kings’ then-owners, the Maloof household, determined to now not run the WNBA group and one other purchaser wasn’t discovered. The Maloofs finally bought the Kings in 2013, and regardless of an effort to maneuver them to Seattle, they stayed in Sacramento.

All of these conditions occurred from 2006-2009, in the course of the world monetary disaster, when the Houston Comets additionally disbanded and the WNBA confronted its best challenges. Whereas WNBA franchises have not elevated in worth the best way that NBA franchises have, the WNBA and its groups are in a stronger place financially now and have grown their viewers.

That makes the Mercury a invaluable property — not an “and” or an “additionally” within the compelled sale — together with the Suns, and the brand new possession should have that mindset going ahead.

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