Return From Olympics To WNBA Has Taurasi, Bird Going From Friends To Foes

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: (L-R) Diana Taurasi #12 and Sue Bird #6 of United States react against France during the Women's Basketball Gold Medal game on Day 15 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 11, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Every four years longtime Western Conference rivals Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi team up for the red, white, and blue, but now it is back to business in the WNBA.

For Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird it is easy to flip the switch back to being teammates. Look back at 2004 and 2008 as they teamed together to win Gold in Athens, Beijing, and now London for Team USA Basketball.

The two are a dynamic due that embody the perfect backcourt as Bird sets up Taurasi with her playmaking and reins her in when she gets trigger happy. Taurasi allows Bird to be a natural point guard running the team and breaking down the defense with dagger three pointers in timely situations.

As a tandem Taurasi and Bird are a combined 47-0 (Bird missed one game in 2004) in the Olympics winning three gold medals including this years. During the last two runs they were the starting backcourt that dominated the competition.

This year especially they were impressive. Bird ran the show as she tied Sheryl Swoops for the second most assists in one year with 31 setting up Taurasi most of the time. Playing off the ball allowed Taurasi to start most of the key runs at the start of the game or third quarter for Team USA as they took out the competition.

The two have combined to not only win games, but also to be two of the iatrical reasons the team won averaging a combined 14.02 points per game, 4.49 assists per game, and 4.99 rebounds per game.

Over the years Taurasi has built an individual legacy that is starting to border on all-time great status. After this run in 2012 (her third Olympic Games) Taurasi is tied for third in games played (24), fifth in points (254), sixth in rebounds (79), fourth in assists (50), and the sixth best three-point shooter (44.1%) while shooting more than double the amount of anyone near her percentage.

One more run in 2016 - which is not out of the question - and Taurasi could go down as the one of the most decorated women's basketball players of all-time. Right up there with Leslie, Swoops, and Thompson now.

Now it is back to reality. With medals in hand the Taurasi returns to the Mercury after injury to ironically face her friend and recent teammate Bird in WNBA action.

Both teams are under .500 and thinking about the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. It is very much a possibility for Bird and the Seattle Storm, but Taurasi will need to lead a Mercury team that is a full five games behind the Storm to a miraculous second half in the final 15 games.

The Storm are already 2-0 against the Taurasi-less Mercury this season and the teams face each other a total of three more times this season. Each game has major meaning and impact on the fate of the Mercury.

Taurasi needs to flip the switch from amazingly classy teammate to ruthless mercenary out to lead her team - shorthanded and all - to the Playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons under Corey Gaines. It will be a tougher task than the Olympics where Taurasi was flanked with all-world teammates at all times, with the Mercury she is relying simply on who avoided the injury ward in the first half of the season.

Before it was Bird and Taurasi verse the world - now it is Bird verse Taurasi to see who can resurrect their team.

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