Redemption in Retrograde

Story and photos by Devin Millington, November 2016 Issue.

The Phoenix Mercury’s 20th season was dubbed “Out 4 Redemption” and with Diana Taurasi returning from her “vacation” last season, the Mercury seemed poised to return to championship

Penny Taylor.


According to the 14th annual GM survey, the Mercury received 58 percent of the votes as the team most likely to win the 2016 WNBA Championship. Most agreed, as the Mercury’s starting line-up was identical to their 2014 Championship season.

The roster, stacked with all-star talent, seemed unstoppable on paper. Then something happened; the season started.

A Disastrous Start

After the Mercury dropped its first two (road) games, the mood in the arena for their first home game was pensive, yet jubilant. Most assumed the mighty Mercury would win their home opener, but they were wrong, as the Mercury dropped their first two home games as well.

Sloppy play, inconsistent effort and a defense resembling that of a sieve made victory impossible. It was shocking that the Mercury, so full of talent, started the season at 0-4.

Frustration began to take hold on the court. Fans started grumbling online with complaints of low energy, high turnovers and questionable coaching as key reasons for the team’s poor performance.

Finally, the first victory came against Washington (a team that failed to make the 2016 playoffs). Interestingly, the Mercury failed to earn a victory against a playoff team until June 12, against the Chicago Sky. Still, nobody was ready to throw in the towel.

Brittney Griner and Candice Dupree.

An International Intermission

As the season wore on, the Mercury was unable to sustain any kind of streak. Two wins followed by a couple of losses, followed by another win, then a loss. Roster adjustments were made, but the inconsistency remained.

It didn’t help that Penny Taylor missed nine games prior to the Olympic break with a hip injury.

The 2016 Olympic Games split the WNBA season with a month off from July 23 to Aug. 24, but WNBA teams were not equally affected. The LA Sparks had only one player, Serbia’s Ana Dabovic, making the trip to Rio. And the Connecticut Sun had no Olympians. Conversely, the Phoenix Mercury had six players representing five countries in Rio – the most of any team in the WNBA.

Once Taurasi, Griner, Taylor (Australia), Marta Xargay, (Spain), Sonja Petrovic (Serbia) and Lindsey Harding (Belarus), returned from the Summer Games, the Mercury put up an impressive streak of three consecutive wins. But the three losses they team followed the streak up with made the playoff push all the more difficult. However, on Sept.16 the team clinched their fourth consecutive playoff berth, the 11th in franchise history.

Playoff Rollercoaster

The Mercury entered the 2016 playoff race as the eighth seed and was considered an underdog throughout their run. The team’s first opponent was the strong, but equally inconsistent, Indiana Fever. While they had home-court advantage, they didn’t have Taurasi who scored a team-high 20 points. Five Mercury players put up double digits, but it was the team’s defense, that held the Fever’s scoring to just 37 percent, that secured the win.

A few days later, the Mercury traveled to Madison Square Garden to challenge the No. 3 seed, New York Liberty. The Mercury’s defense offense shot a perfect 24 for 24 from the free throw line – and it certainly didn’t hurt that Taylor and Taurasi put on a shooting clinic from behind the arc. The Mercury impressively shot their way into the WNBA semifinals.

Despite losing to the Minnesota Lynx three times during the regular season, many believed that the Mercury was peaking at the right time as they went into the best of five series. The Mercury was now faced with the daunting task of upsetting the Lynx on their home court, a feat achieved against both the Indiana Fever and the New York Liberty. But the Lynx proved too powerful on their home court and easily dispatched the Mercury by double digits in both games.

Penny Taylor and Diana Taurasi.

The Mercury returned home Oct. 2 in the hopes of extending its season and staving off Taylor’s looming retirement. The game was evenly contested in the first half and the team’s energy was high. When the WNBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles got into early foul trouble, and subsequently had to ride the pine for significant chunks of time, the Mercury’s offense took full advantage. The Mercury went into half time trailing by only one point, 38-39.

The second half started with Fowles quickly earning more bench time after picking up her fourth foul, but this time the Mercury failed to capitalize on it and the Lynx went on a 6-0 run. Frustration mounted, especially with the officiating. Uncharacteristically, Dewanna Bonner was called for a technical foul in the middle third quarter. Minnesota’s lead grew steadily.

By the middle of the fourth quarter, the Mercury was down by 20 points and fans slowly started to make their way to the exits. At the three-minute mark Alex Harden entered the game for Taylor, and as Taylor walked to the bench, tears streaming down her face, the X-Factor rose to give her a much-deserved standing ovation. She gave each of her teammates an emotional goodbye hug, crying as she squeezed each player.

The 2016 season was indeed the rollercoaster ride. And like all rides, it had to come to an end. Surely fans will jump back on this ride next summer, even though it won’t be the same without the Mercury’s “Penny from Heaven.”

Keep readingShow less
WhistlePig + Alfa Romeo F1

SHOREHAM, VT (September 13, 2023) — WhistlePig Whiskey, the leaders in independent craft whiskey, and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake are waving the checkered flag on a legend-worthy release that’s taking whiskey to G-Force levels. The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.

The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.

Keep readingShow less
by Spectrum Medical Care Center

Nurse Practitioner Ari Kravitz

When I started medical transition at 20 years old, it was very difficult to get the care I needed for hormone replacement therapy because there are very few providers trained in starting hormones for trans people, even though it’s very similar to the hormones that we prescribe to women in menopause or cisgender men with low testosterone.

I hope more providers get trained in LGBTQ+ healthcare, so they can support patients along their individual gender journey, and provide the info needed to make informed decisions about their body. I’ve personally seen my trans patients find hope and experience a better quality of life through hormone replacement therapy.

Keep readingShow less

Descanso Resort swimming pool and lounge area

Descanso Resort, Palm Springs' premier destination for gay men, just received Tripadvisor's highest honor, a Travelers' Choice "Best of the Best" award for 2023. Based on guests' reviews and ratings, fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor's 8 million listings around the world receive the coveted "Best of the Best" designation. Descanso ranked 12th in the top 25 small inns and hotels category in the United States. Quite an accomplishment!

Open less than two years, Descanso Resort offers gay men a relaxing and luxurious boutique hotel experience just minutes away from Palm Springs' buzziest restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping. Descanso has quickly established itself as a top destination for sophisticated gay travelers, earning hundreds of 5-star guest reviews and consistently ranking in Trapadvisor's top positions alongside brother properties Santiago Resort and Twin Palms Resort.

Keep readingShow less