Phoenix Mercury: Preseason Beating Of Japanese Team, Gaines Finds His 'Poor Man's Cappie'

As the 2011 WNBA season nears, the Phoenix Mercury look to start fresh and return to their championship ways.

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2011 Phoenix Mercury, Expect Change

Building a successful basketball franchise is like a construction project that never ends. You can win the championship in 2007 and still have work to do. You can win again in 2009 and still find ways to improve. Phoenix Mercury coach Corey Gaines likes to talk about the flexibility of his offensive system learned at the side of the "Guru of Go" Paul Westhead and that will be on display again in 2011.

This summer's version of the WNBA's most potent offensive team will be bigger, stronger and tougher than any previous team. The addition of centers Kara Braxton and Nakia Sanford in place of Tangela Smith and Nicole Ohlde builds on the replacement of Cappie Pondexter with Candice Dupree and shifts the scoring closer to the rim and improves rebounding and defensive potential.

"We've changed a little bit. Tangela (Smith) is gone. Everyone knows that. She was a person who stretched the defense for us. But what we lost in that way, I think we gained in power and strength. It will be interesting this year. People will see the offense is a little different," Gaines said about his Mercury team.

But don't ask if Phoenix will be any slower.

"It won't be slower. I didn't say it would be slower. I said it will be more powerful. There's a difference between slowing and being more powerful."

Here's some things to look for from the 2011 Mercury.

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