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Phoenix Mercury PDF Print E-mail
Written by Abigail Hull   
Thursday, 20 December 2007

HISTORY:

The Phoenix Mercury is a Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) team based in Phoenix, Arizonia  one of the league's original eight teams. The Mercury are so named because Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. It is the WNBA counterpart to the Phoenix Suns.  Their uniform is white, chartreuse and orange at home with a logo of the planet Mercury in purple, and the word "Phoenix" in silver; it is orange and chartreuse on the road.

The roster for the Mercury included  Nancy Lieberman,  Michele Timms of Australia,  Jennifer Gillom, Bridget Pettis, and Cheryl Miller as head coach.  The Mercury quickly established itself as a major franchise. In the very first WNBA season, the Mercury would post a 16-12 record and reach the first WNBA playoffs. The Mercury lost to the New York Liberty that year.

In 1998, the Mercury would again qualify for the playoffs, posting a 19-11 record. The Mercury would defeat the Cleveland Rockers to reach the WNBA Finals for the first time. In a hard fought series, the Mercury would fall 2 games to 1 to the defending champion Houston Comets.

In 1999, the Mercury would miss the playoffs, posting a 15-17 record.

In 2000, the Mercury would finish 20-12, but would by swept by the Los Angeles Sparks.

The team would descend into turmoil after the season, as coach Miller left.  Retirement and trades broke up the original core group of players and the team stopped being a playoff contender.

From 2001-2004, the Mercury would be at the bottom of the WNBA. Fielding miserable teams, the Mercury were never competitive. The Mercury went through coach after coach, and nothing worked. During the lean years, the franchise remained in the news as forward Lisa Harrison became a sex symbol. Playboy Magazine offered her money to pose in their magazine. She declined the offer.  While the teams posted losing season's General Manager Seth Sulka developed a staff that built increadable fan relations allowing the team to stay a float financially doing the rough years.

After a horrible 2003 season, in which the Mercury posted an 8-26 record, the Mercury would win the #1 overall choice in the 2004 WNBA Draft, and select coveted former UConn star Diana Taurasi. Taurasi went on to win the WNBA Rookie of the Year Award in the 2004 season, as the Mercury posted a better 17-17 record. The Mercury would post a 16-18 record in 2005, missing the playoffs again. GM Seth Sulka changed the direction of the teamby changing coaches.

Former NBA coach Paul Westhead became the Mercury's head coach prior to the 2006 season and brought his up-tempo style to Phoenix. Westhead was the first WNBA coach to have won a previous NBA championship (1980 LA Lakers). The Mercury also would draft Cappie Pondexter with the #2 overall selection in the 2006 WNBA Draft. The addition would provide Taurasi with a solid #2 player.

The 2006 season was a positive one for the Mercury, as they posted a winning record for the first time since 2000, at 18-16. The Mercury would compete for the playoffs all year, but would fall short.  With this loss after 10 years of service and within inches of acheiving his goal of a championship in Phoenix, GM Seth Sulka was forced to resign from the team.  Anne Meyers was named as his replacement.

In the 2007 season, the Mercury would post their best record in franchise history and the best record in the Western Conference at 23-11, clinching the #1 seed. The Mercury set a scoring record with an average 89.0 points per game in a season during 2007. 

In their first playoffs since 2000, the Mercury would make quick work of the Seattle Storm in the first round, blowing them out in 2 games (Game 1: 101-84, Game 2: 95-89). In the Western Finals, the Mercury swept the San Antonio Silver Stars in a closer series (Game 1: 102-100, Game 2: 98-92), advancing to the WNBA Finals for the first time in nine years.

In the Finals, the Mercury faced the defending 2006 champions Detroit Shock. The two teams would split the first two games in Detroit. Coming back home, the Mercury would suffer a letdown in game 3, losing 88-83. Down 2-1, the Mercury had to win game 4 or lose. Game 4 would come down to the final seconds, but the Mercury would edge out the Shock 77-76, with Cappie Pondexter scoring 26 points, and force a Game 5 in Detroit. In Game 5, Phoenix won by a score of 108-92.  Penny Taylor scored a game high 30 points in Game 5, and went 18-for-18 from the line.  The Mercury won the series and their first championship becoming the first WNBA team to win a championship on the road. Cappie Pondexter was named the WNBA Finals MVP, and averaged 22.0 points and 5.6 assists in the series.

On November 7, 2007 The Mercury announced the hiring of Corey Gaines as head coach to replace the departing Paul Westhead who returned to the NBA.

In 2008, the Mercury failed to make the play-offs, finishing in sixth place in the Western Conference with a record of 16-18.   

LOCATION:

The Phoenix Mercury play at the US Airways Center located at 201 East Jefferson Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85004.  

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