Brittney Griner opens up on her time ‘caged’ in Russia and admits she now ‘appreciates everything a little more’ in her return to the court… as WNBA chief calls her first performance back on US soil ‘unbelievable’
- Brittney Griner returned to the WNBA court for the first time in two years Friday
- After the game, she opened up about her time in a Russian prison and her return
- DailyMail.com provides all the latest international sports news
Brittney Griner admits she now ‘appreciates everything more’ after returning to the WNBA court, five months after being released from a Russian penal colony.
The 31-year-old basketball star was convicted on drug charges in August and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. She was, however, released on December 8 after President Biden sanctioned an exchange, giving convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout back to Russia.
Griner played her first game in two years on Friday night, and after stepping off the court, she opened up on her time behind bars, and her decision to stand for the national anthem.
‘I was literally in a cage and could not stand the way I wanted to,’ she said. ‘Just being able to hear my national anthem and see my flag, I definitely want to stand.’
Griner had 18 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots Friday night for the Phoenix Mercury in a 94-71 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks.
Brittney Griner looked relaxed as she returned to the WNBA court for the first time in two years
The 31-year-old, who was released from a Russian prison in December, shone for the Mercury
‘Not good enough, didn’t get the dub,’ said Griner, who nevertheless couldn’t be down in defeat.
‘I appreciate everything a little bit more, all of the small moments, like, “Oh, I’m so tired, I don’t want to go to practice today,” that has changed, honestly,’ she said.
‘Tomorrow is not guaranteed, you don’t know what it’s going to look like. I feel a lot older somehow, too.’
The 32-year-old center’s immediate goal is to be able to play an entire game by the All-Star break in mid-July. She played 25 minutes Friday.
‘I hope to be exactly where I want to be,’ Griner said. ‘Just getting back to how I was before all this happened.’
Griner made an immediate impact against the Sparks. She fired a pass to Moriah Jefferson, who hit a 3-pointer for Phoenix’s first basket. Griner grabbed a couple of rebounds and scored twice in helping the Mercury to an early lead.
‘How good did she just look? Unbelievable,’ WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert told reporters at halftime.
Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the Phoenix Mercury team in the locker room
Griner shoots over Layshia Clarendon during the game against the LA Sparks on Friday night
WNBA star Griner admitted after the game that she now ‘appreciates everything a little more’
For the first time since last season, Phoenix coach Vanessa Nygaard opened her pregame comments without announcing how many days Griner had been jailed.
‘Until the day we got the news in the morning that she was on her way home, no one thought that it was going to happen,’ Nygaard said. ‘We did our jobs probably with less joy than professional athletes do. It was heavy every day.’
‘Today is a day of joy,’ Nygaard said. ‘An amazing, amazing thing has happened.’