Phoenix Mercury Home Opener Features Changes For 2012

PHOENIX - MAY 29: WNBA player Diana Taurasi attends Game Six of the Western Conference Finals between the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at US Airways Center on May 29, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Mercury open at home on Saturday against the L.A. Sparks. Diana Taurasi (hip flexor) expects to play after missing the first game of the season and being pulled early in the second.

The Phoenix Mercury are 1-1 on the 2012 WNBA season, but for their fans things really kick off on Saturday night when they get their first live looked at the new team. Five players are returning from last season with two new players (rookie Samantha Prahahlis and guard Charde Houston) playing big roles.

Of course, the Mercury will still look to push the tempo and run the floor because as Coach Corey Gaines said, he doesn't know any other way. But once again, Gaines is promising more emphasis on the other end of the floor.

"We probably did 70 percent defense (in practice)," Gaines said after Friday's practice. "My offense will probably suffer a little bit but you can't please everybody. If I don't get our defense in practice then everybody says, 'you don't do any defense.' I'm just trying to balance it out where we can catch up and we'll try and go that 50/50. We'll get there."

That defensive emphasis, so far, has not included any work on the "Rover Zone" that the Mercury were known for. It's all been man-to-man principles according to Candice Dupree who's happy to see the focus on that end of the floor.

In the first two games, the areas that have stood out to Gaines as needing the most improvement are rebounding and turnovers.

The team struggled early last season with turnovers as well and the expectation is that will improve with time and familiarity. There are a lot of new faces, including a rookie point guard who loves to pass the ball.

To address the rebounding issues the team waived Latvian center Zane Tamane and are expected to bring back Krystal Thomas who Gaines says brings more power to the second unit. Thomas won't be available for Saturday's game but should be with the team early next week.

Taurasi Ready To Go

Diana Taurasi pulled a muscle the day she joined the team for training camp after having completed some duties with Team USA. Taurasi was held out of the season-opener in Minnesota and was lift early in the second game after it was clear he mobility was limited.

Taurasi went through a full practice on Friday and declared herself ready, "It felt good...I'm pretty sure I'm a go."

The Mercury face the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at U.S. Airways Center.

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