Skylar Diggins-Smith will not return to the WNBA in 2022

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The Phoenix Mercury introduced Thursday that Skylar Diggins-Smith would miss the ultimate two regular-season video games this season. The Mercury even have suspended her contract, so she is not going to be returning in 2022 even when the crew makes the playoffs.

Heading into Thursday evening’s video games, Phoenix is in four-way tie at 14-20 within the standings, with 5 groups vying for the ultimate two playoff spots. The Los Angeles Sparks, who play Thursday, can be eradicated with a loss. Phoenix finishes the season internet hosting the Dallas Wings on Friday and the Chicago Sky on Sunday. Since profitable the franchise’s second title in 2009, the Mercury have missed the playoffs simply as soon as, in 2012.

However 2022 has been very troublesome for the Mercury below first-year head coach Vanessa Nygaard, beginning with Brittney Griner‘s detention in Russia in February. Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi had a confrontation on the bench in Might, Tina Charles left the team in June, Diggins-Smith used a clown emoji on Twitter in obvious reference to Nygaard in July, Taurasi is at the moment out with a quad injury and now Diggins-Smith is completed for the season.

Someway, the Mercury nonetheless have an opportunity on the playoffs. What is going to it take for Phoenix to make the postseason, and what does the long run appear to be for the Mercury and Diggins-Smith? We have a look.

How does Diggins-Smith’s absence for Phoenix’s remaining two regular-season video games affect the Mercury’s hopes of reaching the playoffs?

There are solely so many hits a crew can take, and the Mercury have taken a variety of them. They did win Saturday’s recreation towards the New York Liberty with out both Taurasi or Diggins-Smith. That was because of a wonderful defensive effort that held the Liberty to 62 factors, whereas Diamond DeShields scored a season-high 25 factors.

The Mercury bought profession highs in scoring from Shey Peddy and Megan Gustafson on Wednesday, however fell to Minnesota 86-77. After the sport, Gustafson talked concerning the significance of the Mercury gamers persevering with to encourage one another.

The subsequent two opponents, the Wings and the Sky, have already secured playoff berths however each hope to enter the postseason on a excessive word. Dallas gained 5 in a row earlier than falling to the in-desperation-mode Liberty on Wednesday. Chicago has been one of many league’s greatest groups all season and is the defending champion. The Mercury are 1-2 towards Dallas beforehand this season, and 0-2 towards the Sky.

Diggins-Smith has been one of many largest threats offensively within the league this season, as a scorer and a playmaker. To be blunt, her absence actually might be the distinction between the Mercury going to the postseason and never going.

The Mercury performed their final two video games with out Diggins-Smith. How will the beginning lineup proceed to be adjusted with out her? Who must step up?

Sophie Cunningham is a powerful candidate for the WNBA’s Most Improved Participant award and has been one of many rocks for the Mercury in a season during which a lot has occurred. Cunningham is a tireless competitor and crew participant. Not all WNBA followers are keen on her, going again to her faculty days at Mizzou, due to her aggressive play. However in case you are in search of somebody who’s at all times going to provide her all and by no means stop, that is Cunningham. The Mercury would haven’t any likelihood on the playoffs if she had not made the strides she has this season.

Cunningham began Wednesday’s recreation together with Peddy, DeShields, Brianna Turner and Jennie Simms, who has performed in 21 video games this season after final showing within the WNBA in 2017. Yvonne Turner has appeared in seven video games with the Mercury this season, after most just lately enjoying within the WNBA in 2019. The veteran guard, who can be 35 in October, performed 10 minutes on Wednesday. And Gustafson was essentially the most profitable participant off the Mercury bench on Wednesday.

In a nutshell, the Mercury are like a patchwork quilt proper now. They bear no resemblance to the crew Nygaard thought she can be teaching when she took the job. However the Mercury gamers are additionally able now the place they know it is actually right down to this group that’s nonetheless standing, and they are going to be enjoying with a sense of desirous to show one thing.

Widespread sense would say the Mercury haven’t got good odds to win both of their final video games. However unusual issues can occur when a crew’s again is towards the wall after a variety of adversity. Possibly Turner, a defensive whiz who has struggled as a scorer, finds that in her in these closing video games. Possibly the Mercury get sizzling from behind the arc. Possibly DeShields takes over, as her capability permits her to do. Or possibly they lose each video games, miss the postseason, after which the autopsy on this season begins in earnest.

Ought to Phoenix advance to the postseason, they’re going to seemingly face a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. With out Diggins-Smith’s 19.7 PPG — almost 20% of the Mercury’s offense — and team-high 5.5 APG, how far do you see the crew advancing?

Simply making the playoffs at this level can be an enormous accomplishment. It appears unlikely the Mercury will transcend the primary spherical, clearly. They must play the very best protection they will play, and get sizzling from behind the arc.

What’s Diggins-Smith’s future in Phoenix?

All season, it has been apparent that Nygaard and Diggins-Smith should not have an excellent working relationship. It appears almost unimaginable that each are going to be in Phoenix subsequent season. Possibly neither will.

Sandy Brondello was let go after eight seasons final 12 months within the wake of the frustration of the Mercury dropping within the WNBA Finals. However Brondello nearly instantly bought one other job, with New York, as a result of she is a dependable veteran coach who has proven she will deal with participant egos.

All of Nygaard’s earlier expertise as a head coach was at the highschool stage, though she has been an assistant within the WNBA. There may be a lot to handle as a WNBA head coach that’s behind-the-scenes, and this season would have examined even a veteran. Nonetheless, Nygaard bought the job, so she needs to be as much as the duty, irrespective of how laborious. That is the way in which it’s in professional sports activities.

Diggins-Smith has had an excellent season, but it surely has led to a foul means. She turned 32 earlier this month and nonetheless seems to have a variety of good basketball in entrance of her. In response to salary-cap data offered by Her Hoops Stats, Diggins-Smith is signed with Phoenix by means of subsequent season and can be an unrestricted free agent in 2024.

Diggins-Smith was drafted No. 3 general behind Griner and Elena Delle Donne in 2013. She started her profession in Tulsa, and had her 2015 season minimize quick after 9 video games by an ACL damage. She went to Dallas the following 12 months when the franchise moved, and was a starter with the Wings in 2016, ’17 and ’18. She sat out the 2019 season after giving beginning to her son, after which requested a commerce from Dallas.

Diggins-Smith talked then about coping with postpartum despair and appeared anticipating a recent begin in Phoenix. She has contributed so much to the Mercury in her three seasons and is a well-liked participant with the followers. But when that is the top of her time in Phoenix, the place does she go subsequent and what does it imply for the Mercury?

Phoenix’s iconic participant is the 40-year-old Taurasi, and the franchise’s different longtime star remains to be imprisoned in Russia. Now Diggins-Smith is perhaps on the way in which out, and the Mercury have many points to face within the coming months.

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