Fan voting for the WNBA All-Star game ended Thursday, and while final results won’t be announced until July 1, it appears Phoenix Mercury point guard Diana Taurasi is a lock to be a starter.
In results released Tuesday, Taurasi was second among Western Conference guards with 45,676 votes. She trailed only Seattle’s Sue Bird (51,509) and had a healthy lead on Houston’s Dominique Canty (31,981), who was third.
"That’s cool," said Taurasi on Friday when informed of the probability of starting. "That’s definitely a great honor, and I’ll be more than excited to be playing."
The All-Star game is July 9 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. No other Mercury player is in the top nine in fan voting. Coaches will select the reserves, which will be announced the week before the game.
The highly anticipated return of 6-foot-8 Russian center Maria Stepanova, who hasn’t played for Phoenix since 2001, has been delayed once again.
Last week, Mercury general manager Seth Sulka said, "There’s a really good chance she’ll be here next week," and added she could be in uniform for today’s game against Connecticut. But as of Friday, Stepanova had yet to book a flight to Phoenix.
Everything else is in place for her return, it’s just a matter of when she decides she wants to come, Sulka said.
Sulka speculated Stepanova could still be making arrangements for her 2-year-old son to stay in Russia and come to the United States after she gets settled or that she is waiting to join the team after today’s game because of Phoenix’s week-long break — which would allow her more time to get integrated with the team — before its next game.
Whatever the reason, Sulka said he remains optimistic Stepanova will rejoin the team before the All-Star break.
NO FURTHER DISCIPLINE
Sharon Robustelli, the senior director of WNBA communications, said the league will not fine or suspend Mystics forward DeLisha Milton-Jones after she rushed Taurasi and cocked her fist as if to throw a punch toward the end of their game Tuesday in Washington.
The two got tangled up while running down court and both ended up on the floor. Milton-Jones then ran at Taurasi but was restrained by teammate Chasity Melvin. Milton-Jones was ejected, and Taurasi received a technical foul.
"The proper disciplinary action was taken at the time," Robustelli said.
Forward Gwen Jackson suffered a non-contact injury to her left knee during practice and will be a game-time decision tonight. "I just planted (and it gave out)," Jackson said. She will be examined by a doctor today.
Sun at Mercury
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: America West Arena
Radio: ESPN (860 AM)
Records: Connecticut 9-2, Mercury 3-9
Series history: The Mercury are 4-2 against the Sun in Phoenix but trail the all-time series 5-6 after an 85-68 loss last month. Scouting report: Sun — Connecticut had its eightgame winning streak broken Wednesday at Seattle but bounced back with a win at Sacramento on Friday. Taj McWilliams-Franklin has established herself as an early MVP candidate. Coming into Friday’s games, the 6-2 center/forward was sixth in the league in scoring (17.1), eighth in rebounds (6.7) and third in field goal percentage (57.8). Coach Mike Thibault will miss the game because of the death of his mother on Wednesday.
Mercury — Offensive production continues to be Phoenix’s Achilles’ heel. After scoring 52 secondhalf points at home in a victory against San Antonio on June 15, the Mercury have averaged just 56.3 points per game over their last three games — all on the road and all losses — while shooting a combined 33 percent over the same span. That has dropped them to 12th in the league in points per game (65.0) and last in field goal percentage (38.1 percent). Diana Taurasi and Anna DeForge are tied for fifth in minutes played per game (35.8).