Transcendence only comes around maybe once a decade and if you are lucky enough to be around for a truly talented generation of basketball maybe 2-3 times at the most. There are very few players or personalities that can stand-up above the game and look down on it as their playground.
Nine years ago Diana Taurasi stepped onto a WNBA court and immediately became one of the best players in the league winning MVP trophies, League Championships, and creating a legend.
Other great players have come into the league since then, but none with the star power, magnitude, and appeal of the latest No. 1 Overall pick; Brittney Griner. She has the spotlight squarely on her as she transitions from being a star at the University of Baylor to one of the most successful WNBA franchises in the past 10 years.
The pairing of Taurasi and Griner has the potential to create a new level of transcendence that has not been seen in the WNBA.
However, individual transcendence is not what the Mercury are trying to accomplish with this current group. They have the potential as a unit to be a transcendent team with the pieces in place. Last year they took Samantha Prahalis with the No. 6 overall pick and she turned out to be one of the better overall players in the entire draft class. Her emergence as a point guard is good sign for the future with her ability to make plays for others and score the ball.
She teamed up with DeWanna Bonner to form a one-two-punch that was not successful in terms of wins and losses, but was effective in the way they played together.
Bonner became a star in her own right last year controlling the offense with Sammy on the perimeter. Those two were the primary offensive weapons last season and will shift into lesser roles for the better of the team. Sammy is better suited as a play-maker with her vision and play-making ability. With the ball in her hands she will be a highlight reel in the pick-and-roll with her new 6-8 above the rim new toy, Griner.
There is no doubt that Taurasi and Griner will be the stars with Bonner and Sammy as secondary play-makers to take some of the pressure off.
Having glue around substance is essential to becoming an elite team. Penny Taylor and Candice Dupree will be the glue with their ability to score off the ball, rebound, and do all the little things on the court. Taylor has been around for a while and is coming off of injury so easing her in without the expectation of 20 points a night would be an ideal situation.
Head Coach (and General Manager) Corey Gaines did a quality job rounding out the rest of the roster with role players that know how to play a specific role.
Briana Gilbreath (defender/shooter), Krystal Thomas (rebounder/paint clogger), Alexis Hornbuckle (perimeter defender), Charde Houston (perimeter scoring), and Lynetta Kizer (floor spacing) all have a defined role that they can excel in no matter the distribution of minutes. The bench is very versatile, providing toughness, defense, shooting, and basketball factors that the starters may not exude.
This is more than a one trick pony show or a two trick pony show with the depth and flexibility they have compiled.
With this new-found depth of stars the new task for Coach Gaines will be balancing the minutes and massaging ego's to help this team reach its true potential.
He has pressure on him to make sure the team is organized, but also has to stay out of the way of this team's potential greatness. That pressure was on the Minnesota Lynx last season which led to Head Coach Cheryl Reeve playing her starters to the bone causing the team to fall just short of their true potential. That is a cautionary tale for Coach Gaines and the entire Phoenix Mercury this season.
Potential can change with the snap of a finger or the turn of an ankle, that is how sudden a fortune can change in the world of professional athletics. That is preaching to the choir to Mercury fans as misfortune took away the potential of the 2012 WNBA season, which is now nothing but a distant memory.
Just as quick as misfortune can strike, it can change for the positive.
Numbers Do Not Lie
Last season the Mercury were without 48.3 points per game from Taurasi and Taylor due to their injuries as well as 8.3 assists, 8.1 rebounds, and 126 made three pointers.
They will be a welcome addition to the roster as well as with Dupree who missed 19 games due to injury.
Chasing Team History
Over the 16 year history of the team the best record they have mustered a 23-11 mark twice. They have won the WNBA Championship twice in that time, but this year they have a considerable opportunity to win a franchise record amount of games and could chase league history...
1. 27-3 Houston Comets 1998 (90%)
2/3. 28-4 LA Sparks 2000, 2001 (87.5%)
4. 28-6 Seattle Storm 2010 (82.3%)
Where will the Mercury finish?
It's a bit (okay, a LOT) surreal to be so excited about consecutive Phoenix Suns moves, but that's what happening and I don't know what to do about it.
I feel a bit like the Grinch (Jim Carrey version) who flops and plops around a while on his mountain in agony for a few moments until he figures out the source of the problem - that his cold, dead heart had started beating again. Add in a few more of these moments and I might start "leaking" some tears of joy.
For now, I'm happy with a beating heart. Lon Babby has hit a couple of home runs with his new General Manager (Ryan McDonough) and new head coach (Jeff Hornacek).
McDonough was widely lauded nationally as a great hire, a man already being mentioned in the breath of young, successful front office types like Sam Presti, Masai Ujiri, Rob Hennigan and Rich Cho before making his first move.
And now Jeff Hornacek is coming back into the fold after twenty one years away. While he doesn't have a long history on the bench, he's been mentioned as a head coaching candidate since nearly the day he retired from playing. He was considered in 2004 by Danny Ainge (another former Sun), who settled on Doc Rivers. He was considered in 2008 by the Suns, who settled on Terry Porter. In both cases, the interest was a non-starter while Hornacek stayed away from coaching until his kids graduated college.
This time, Hornacek is ready and the Suns pounced. Let's read a little of what others have to say about Hornacek from the SLC Dunk guys at the Utah Jazz's SB Nation blog.
Goodbye Jeff Hornacek - Dianaallen
When the Zone has interviewed the assistant coaches or during the halftime interviews with assistants, Jeff was the only coach I felt that said anything concrete, anything useful. What we'd hear from Sanders and Lowe is much like what we'd hear from Corbin, just a bunch of jargon. Jeff on the other hand would name specific things players had to do better, he would talk about specific plays, it wasn't the usual, "continue to get better" "work harder".
Over the years it seems like Jeff as been great at working with the players, building relationships with them.
Horny is the coach that seems to have pulled the Cour Four aside in timeouts to give instructions to or to encourage them. Hornacek will be greatly missed.
Horny in Logan - Kurt Adison - Giving a free speech to a small audience
His family did not have money for him to go to college. He worked making cups for McDonald's his freshman year. He worked hard to earn a scholarship and pushed himself to make it playing basketball.
His duties grew when Korver asked him to "watch him shoot". At that time Korver shot the ball flat and helped him with his arch. Then Wesley Matthews asked for help and etc. He works with Gordon Hayward a lot now.
One other thing he mentioned was that players don't seem to practice as much anymore. In "the old days", you would shoot from 9-10am then practice 10-12pm, come back after lunch to shoot some more. Now he says "it's like pulling teeth to get guys to stay for a 1/2 hr to shoot after practice. They like to run home to their video games."
Others have lauded the pick as well, either lobbying for Hornacek to be a head coach or praising it today.
Suns should consider Hornacek - Tom Chambers - arizonasports.com
"One name that always comes to my mind who was a coach of mine even though he wasn't a coach on the court was Jeff Hornacek," said Chambers. "He was spectacular, played in the league and was an All-Star in the league.
"I believe firmly that if you've done it and you're asking these kids today to do something you've already done, it's an easier task. Jeff came from a coaching family, he's always been a coach, he had to always work to hone his game...He knows what hard work is all about."
Hornacek a good fit for Suns - Jared Bray
As an assistant with the Jazz, Horny has helped several players improve their shooting technique. In fact, thanks to Coach Hornacek, Alec Burks went from shooting 29.2 percent from behind the arc in college to 35.0 as a pro.
Likewise, Gordon Hayward was able to increase his 3-point shooting percentage from 34.6 in 2011-12 to 41.5 this past season.
"Having a great shooter like that work with me helped a lot," Hayward said. "Not just with mechanics, but with my confidence."
Hornacek on fast track for head coaching job - Gordon Monson
And that's the key - similar in some ways to what Mark Jackson has done at Golden State - to what Hornacek could bring to a team as a head coach: an easy, intelligent approach, but one that still has high standards for success. Some observers might think Hornacek is too nice of a guy, too well-adjusted. But he has always had a no-nonsense competitive streak that runs to his core. That's what enabled him to go on playing on one leg, dragging the other up and down the floor, in his latter seasons. It's what helped him walk on at Iowa State and win, what helped him become an All-Star as a second-round pick by Phoenix. Former Suns CEO Jerry Colangelo once said of Hornacek: "Most of the people in the league thought Jeff was too slow, not good enough to play in the NBA. But there was something special about him. He had a big heart."
Amar Smith - Manager - SLC Dunk
"Personally it will be tough to see," Amar Smith, manager of SLC Dunk said via email this morning. "Because Jeff has been a huge part of my fan experience. Furthermore, the Jazz can't draft players who can't shoot anymore because he would take the extra time out of his life to give private coaching -- even Kyle Korver (who set an NBA record for 3pt% in a season) attributes Jeff for that mark. He makes your struggling offensive players better, and makes your great offensive players find another two or three shots in their arsenal.
"A number of Jazz fans would rather we trade you former Suns player Tyrone Corbin and keep Jeff. But our front office made their decision.
"All the best Jeff."