Brittney Griner opens up about her ‘caged’ time in Russia and admits she’s ‘appreciating everything a little more’ upon her return to court… as WNBA chief calls first performance on US soil a ‘ “amazing”
Brittney Griner returned to the WNBA court for the first time in two years on Friday
After the match, she spoke about her time in a Russian prison and her return
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Brittney Griner admits she “appreciates everything more” after returning to WNBA court five months after being released from a Russian penal colony.
The 31-year-old basketball star was convicted of drug trafficking in August and sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia. She was, however, released on December 8 after President Biden authorized a trade, sending convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout back to Russia.
Griner played her first game in two years on Friday night, and after leaving the court, she opened up about her time behind bars and her decision to stand for the national anthem.
“I was literally in a cage and couldn’t take what I wanted,” she said. “Just so I can hear my national anthem and see my flag, I really want to stand up.”
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, I didn’t get the voiceover,” said Griner, who nonetheless couldn’t be defeated.
“I appreciate everything a little bit more, all the little 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 be like. I feel a lot older too.
The 32-year-old center’s immediate goal is to be able to play a full game by the All-Star break in mid-July. She played 25 minutes on Friday.
“I hope to be exactly where I want to be,” Griner said. “I’m just going back to who I was before all of this happened.”
Griner had an immediate impact against the Sparks. She fired a pass to Moriah Jefferson, who hit a 3-pointer for Phoenix’s first field goal. Griner grabbed a few rebounds and scored twice as he helped the Mercury to an early lead.
‘How does she just look? Amazing,’ WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert told reporters at halftime.
Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the Phoenix Mercury team in the locker room
Griner shoots Layshia Clarendon in game against LA Sparks on Friday night
WNBA star Griner admitted after the game that she “enjoys 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 found out in the morning that she was going home, nobody thought it was going to happen,” Nygaard said. “We did our job probably with less joy than professional athletes. It was heavy every day.
“Today is a day of joy,” Nygaard said. “An incredible, incredible thing has happened.”