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One of the 'three to see' hits the Sun ... plus Diana

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published June 29. 2013 4:00AM
Ross D. Franklin/ AP Photo
Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury, right, gets high fives from her teammates, including rookie Brittney Griner, left, during a recent game. The Mercury are looking for their third road win in a five-day span tonight as they take on the Connecticut Sun.

Mohegan - It wouldn't require much cynicism to suggest that per league mandate, Paul Revere's reincarnation is scheduled to ride around Mohegan Sun today hollering, "The Brittney is coming! The Brittney is coming!"

That's because Brittney Griner, part of the ESPN-concocted and WNBA-perpetuated "three to see," (with fellow rookies Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins) is a member of the Phoenix Mercury, the Connecticut Sun's opponent tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena (7 p.m., CPTV Sports).

Funny, though, how there are three other things to see tonight that might supersede Griner's arrival:

Can the Sun (2-6), who need a win the way most of us need a pancreas, snap a three-game losing streak?

Can the Mercury (6-4) win their third road game in five days, further cementing the idea that they're finally becoming the team league observers picked as the overwhelming preseason favorite?

Can anybody stop Diana Taurasi?

Begin here: Sun center Tina Charles, the league's reigning Most Valuable Player, wasn't particularly interested in the Griner questions after Friday's workout.

"I'm looking forward to playing the Phoenix Mercury," Charles said abruptly, after hearing Griner Question No. 1.

Then she paused and said, "You guys don't ask me about Erika De Souza, Sylvia Fowles or the other great posts in this league. I'm looking forward to playing the Phoenix Mercury."

Later, Charles was asked if it bothers her that the WNBA public relations machine doesn't spend as much time promoting the reigning MVP, who has built a school in Africa and recently established a program to place Automatic External Defibrillators in schools across the United States.

"I don't control what people put their focus on," she said. "I focus on myself and the Connecticut Sun."

Sun coach Anne Donovan issued a wry grin when informed of Charles' responses.

"She's watched a lot of tape and done all the research. She's fired up," Donovan said of Charles. "We had a good conversation about how we want to guard (Griner) and Tina's had a lot of input on that. I'm impressed with her mental approach to this.

"Tina is determined to turn this around," Donovan said, "She is the reigning MVP and knows we're going to hang a lot on her shoulders. This is tearing her up. She's the kind of kid you don't get a lot of reads from. But let me tell you, this is tearing her up. Just the way she's approaching this game speaks volumes for who she is."

Charles leads the Sun averaging 18.6 points per game, despite shooting a career-low 39 percent from the field. Griner is averaging 16 points per game in 26 minutes, all while Taurasi, in her 10th season, has MVP-level numbers to date: 24 points per game. She's scored at least 26 in six of the Mercury's last seven games.

"I'm a huge Diana fan," Donovan said. "As well as Griner's doing, it's because of Diana. Diana is the one who gives her the confidence to relax. 'I'll get you the ball for your 26 minutes a game and when they double-team you, I'm going to be available.' Her persona is perfect for Brittney."

Charles said, "Diana is a great leader. I had a chance to play with her in Turkey. She knows how to get everyone else involved. It's why she's so unique. Everybody knows that Brittney Griner has a lot of upside, a lot of potential. Once she gets that 'it' factor she's going to be unbelievable. I think 'D' is coaching her and I'm sure she's sponging everything up."

The Sun also must deal with DeWanna Bonner's 15.9 points per game and 12.8 from Candice Dupree, whom Donovan called the "unsung hero." Phoenix averages 86.1 points per game and surrenders 86.3.

"Phoenix scores a lot and they give up a lot. Teams that struggle to score tend to be able to score against them," Donovan said. "But they're different because they're bigger than most teams at every position.

"I like our running game and I like he fact that we're hungry," Donovan said. "We need to win bad."

• Donovan said injured players Tan White (finger) and Renee Montgomery (ankle) are making progress, but still won't likely play for at least two weeks. Kara Lawson (knee bone bruise) is out tonight and "day to day," Donovan said, possibly returning Tuesday vs. Tulsa.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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