Penny Taylor returns for the Mercury's championship push

Penny Taylor's return to the Phoenix Mercury should provide a boost to the team's championship run

The Phoenix Mercury are a team with a mission. Since media day before the season started, this group has been focused on getting back to championship form. The addition of a player of Taylor's caliber could provide a huge boost to the team's chances by adding yet another proven scorer who is playoff tested. Taylor will have instant chemistry with the team's core group of Pondexter, Taurasi and Smith, who all played together in the team's 2007 championship year. Taurasi has told me she considers Penny one of her best friends and Taylor and Pondexter were teammates in Russia this year.

With the court leadership and distribution that Tameka Johnson has brought at point and the addition of dynamic rookie DeWanna Bonner, as well as the solid post presence of Le'Coe Willingham, this team could be much better than the first and only professional basketball team in Phoenix to win a ring.

It will be interesting to see how fast Taylor can get into game shape and how she is integrated into a rotation that has taken the team to an 11-4 record and a two-game lead in the very tough Western Conference.

The bandwagon is accepting all passengers. Time to get on board for the 2nd half of the season.

The press release from the team follows after the jump:

PHOENIX - The Phoenix Mercury today announced the signing of Penny Taylor, one of the world's highest-profile players. Taylor, along with the league's leading scorers in Diana Taurasi (20.7 ppg) and Cappie Pondexter (19.9 ppg), align to once again form the most prolific scoring trio in the WNBA.

"We're extremely excited to bring back such a world-class player in Penny, who we know can contribute down the stretch to contend for another championship," said Mercury General Manager Ann Meyers Drysdale. "Penny is a versatile player who not only has the ability to be effective at multiple positions, but also understands our system offensively and defensively. We become an even better team with her on our roster."

Taylor, who enters her eighth WNBA season, donned a Mercury jersey for four seasons from 2004-07, and was a vital contributor to the Mercury's championship success in 2007, posting a career-high 17.8 points, career-best 6.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 29.7 minutes per game. She led the highest-scoring team in league history in field goal percentage, shooting 49.9 percent from the floor. Her stellar play made her a leading candidate for 2007 WNBA MVP and earned her All-WNBA First Team honors.

The 6-1 forward proved her big-game abilities during the 2007 WNBA Playoffs, where she averaged 19.3 points, a team-best 7.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists in a team-high 34.6 minutes per game. She started all nine postseason games for the Mercury, helping to lead Phoenix to a 7-2 record en route to its first WNBA Championship.

"It's great to have Penny back. She's proven that she can be a dominating presence in our system," said Head Coach Corey Gaines. "She's an undeniable scoring threat and defensively makes our team better in the post."

After the 2007 season, the Melbourne, Australia native made the decision to forego the 2008 WNBA season to train with the Australian National Team in preparation for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. She led the Opals to a 7-1 record and an appearance in the championship game against the U.S. Women's Olympic Basketball Team featuring Mercury teammates Taurasi and Pondexter.

Taylor underwent reconstructive surgery on her left ankle this spring. She will practice and train with the team until in playing shape with the plan of returning to the Mercury lineup after the All-Star Game.

Originally selected 11th overall by the Cleveland Rockers in the first round of the 2001 WNBA Draft, Taylor joined the Mercury with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 Dispersal Draft. The seven-year WNBA veteran owns career averages of 12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 212 games.

The Mercury's 93.2-point scoring average has the team on-pace to shatter the league scoring record of 89.0 points per game, set by the 2007 Phoenix squad that featured Taylor at power forward. The team takes on the Detroit Shock at US Airways Center tomorrow, July 18 at 7 p.m. Fans in attendance will have the opportunity to hear from Penny Taylor as she's interviewed on-court at halftime. Tickets are available now on phoenixmercury.com and start at $10.

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