Diana Taurasi frustrated by WNBA travel constraints, quick turnaround to Finals: 'We pay for everything'

October 13, 2021, 2:29 AM

PHOENIX -- Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi was still frustrated Tuesday, four days after she and two teammates had to charter a private plane Friday night so she could get back to Arizona from Las Vegas after Game 5 of the WNBA semifinals for the birth of her second child.

"We pay for everything," Taurasi told ESPN. "This is the WNBA. We pay for it."

She added: "It's frustrating because there are people that would like to help, and it's against CBA rules and this, and I understand there's a standard to make sure everyone is on the same playing field. So, thank you to my Russian buddies for that."

Taurasi was referring to her playing career overseas, including long stints on Russian teams, where she earned an annual salary in the seven figures, allowing her to afford to charter a private plane. 

Taurasi's complaints are part of a larger unhappiness toward the WNBA's philosophy on travel.

The rest of her Mercury teammates flew back to Phoenix on a flight that left Las Vegas at about 10 a.m. on Saturday. By time they landed, it was already early afternoon. The Mercury coaching staff spent Saturday cutting tape and preparing for Game 1 of the WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky on Sunday, which meant the Mercury didn't get a practice day before the Finals, and only started watching film on Sunday morning.

"We didn't even touch the court before the Finals," Taurasi said. "So, yeah, that's just disappointing because everyone's tired, but you at least want to be a little bit prepared. So, I think after being on the court [Tuesday], the shootaround [Wednesday], we'll feel better going into the game on Wednesday night."

Taurasi might have been more tired than anyone else on the court Sunday. Her wife, former Mercury star Penny Taylor, gave birth to their daughter, Isla, at 4:24 a.m. Saturday, capping a whirlwind day for Taurasi.

She had considered driving back to Phoenix after Friday night's game -- which the Mercury won to send them to their fifth WNBA Finals -- but opted for the private plane to cut out about three extra hours of traveling.

Taylor was already two days past her due date when she was induced on Friday. She headed to the hospital before the start of the Mercury game, texting with Taurasi right up until Taurasi had to take the court. 

Right around the time Taurasi started heating up early in the fourth quarter, team president Vince Kozar received two messages -- one on WhatsApp, the other via text -- from Taylor, who was watching from her hospital bed. It was the same message: "Don't be alarmed but it's starting to happen."

After the game, as Taurasi prepared for an interview with ESPN, Kozar showed her Taylor's text. Taurasi rushed to the locker room to shower and board the plane with teammates Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith. They landed at a private airport in North Scottsdale around 11:30 p.m., and by midnight, Taurasi said, "We were rolling."

Isla arrived about four hours later.

Taurasi slept at the hospital, which was located just north of downtown Phoenix, on Friday and Saturday night. She left the hospital at 7:30 a.m. Sunday to drive home to shower and get dressed, then drove right to the Footprint Center for Game 1 of the WNBA Finals.

"That was not ideal for a Finals game, but we got here and we tried to play our best," Taurasi said of the Mercury's 91-77 loss to the Sky. "After going over the film and seeing things, we can make some adjustments that will help us."

On Sunday, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league will pay for charter flights for the Sky and Mercury to travel to Chicago between Games 2 and 3 of the WNBA Finals.