Taurasi set to return in WNBA All-Star game

Jul 24, 2009 - 11:57 PM By VIN A. CHERWOO AP Sports Writer

UNCASVILLE, Conn.(AP) -- Diana Taurasi is ready to get back to basketball after being suspended following a drunk-driving arrest.

"It's been hard. It hasn't been an easy month," the Phoenix Mercury star said Friday. "I'm embarrassed. It's a bad situation, but I'm going to use it to make me a better person, a better basketball player. ... I'm ready to move forward."

Her return following the two-game penalty issued by the Mercury will be at the WNBA All-Star game on Saturday, back in the state where she starred at UConn and led the Huskies to three straight national championships from 2002-04.

And though she expects a good reaction from the Connecticut fans, she isn't sure if that will give her a sense of added comfort.

"You can look at it either way," she said. "The most comfortable state at the same time probably was disappointed the most. But no one's taking it harder than me. I'm willing to own up to it."

The 27-year-old guard was cited hours after she scored 22 points in the Mercury's win over Seattle on July 1. A Phoenix police report showed Taurasi's blood-alcohol level was 0.17 percent, more than twice the Arizona legal limit of 0.08 percent.

"You learn a lot from things," she said. "I've always said it's how you come back from it, whether you're willing to learn from it. Everyone makes mistakes, and if you make them again you're just ... stupid."

Taurasi was selected as a reserve by Western Conference coaches after finishing eighth overall - third among West guards - in fan voting. Still, she knows there is a sentiment that she shouldn't be in the game.

"Everyone has their opinion. I'm here because they invited me," Taurasi said. "I'm a human being. I guess if people hold you to being a role model, you're either like Charles (Barkley) where you say you're not, or you try to be in the community and be a positive role model, which I think I've done for the most part."

The West's starting lineup will be led by San Antonio's Becky Hammon and Seattle teammates Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson and Swin Cash. Los Angeles' Lisa Leslie - who is planning to retire after the season - was also voted as a starter, but will miss the All-Star game due to a sprained right knee.

"It's unfortunate she couldn't be here in her last one and get the send-off she deserves," Sparks teammate Tina Thompson said.

Thompson was picked as a reserve and is tied with Leslie for the league record with eight All-Star selections.

"It's a testament to my career and what I've done," Thompson said. "To still be able to keep up with the likes of Cappie (Pondexter), Tamika (Catchings) and Diana and those guys is great."

Even without Leslie, the West has plenty of experienced All-Stars with Thompson, Jackson (seven), Bird (six) and Hammon (five) combining for 26 selections.

"We definitely are very experienced, and we're going to use that to our advantage," Thompson said. "The fact that we've played together for such a long time will give us a little cohesive edge."

Catchings leads the East's starters after finishing as the top vote-getter in the fan balloting for her sixth selection. She will be joined by Indiana teammate Katie Douglas, Chicago's Candice Dupree and Sylvia Fowles, and Washington's Alana Beard.

Jia Perkins was selected as a reserve, giving the Sky three players in the game, as well. The East's other reserves are: Atlanta's Erika DeSouza and Sancho Lyttle; Detroit veteran Katie Smith; host Connecticut's Asjha Jones; and New York's Shameka Christon.

"We have no strategy other than everybody play, everybody have fun, everybody stay healthy," said Fever coach Lin Dunn, who will lead the East. "We want everyone to enjoy the moment. ... we'll both try to win."

Pondexter, tied with Mercury teammate Taurasi for the league lead in scoring at 20.7 points per game, was also selected as a reserve for the West. The others include Minnesota's Nicky Anosike and Charde Houston, and San Antonio's Sophia Young.

Sacramento's Nicole Powell replaced Leslie on the West's roster, and Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes will pick Leslie's replacement in the starting lineup.

The West won the first six All-Star games, but the East has won the last two.

"We really need to try and take it back," Bird said. "It's really about bragging rights."

Thompson agreed, adding: "We want to get back to that winning tradition, but they definitely have a bit of ways to go to catch up."

Before the game Saturday, there will be a 3-point shootout featuring Bird, Christon, Douglas, Hammon, Smith and Taurasi. Also, four teams of three players will compete in a timed skills challenge that includes passing, dribbling and shooting.

This is the second time the All-Star game is in Connecticut, joining New York and Washington as the only multiple hosts. The game was also at the Mohegan Sun Arena in 2005. Madison Square Garden has hosted the event three times (1999, 2002, 2006), Washington's Verizon Center twice (2002, 2007), and Orlando (2001) and Phoenix (2000) once each.

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!