There is a certain feeling that is unmistakable and difficult to shake off no matter the circumstances. When you have this feeling of an, unknown, but missing piece to the puzzle it eats at you until you can figure it out.
If you forget that actors name in that one movie you jump on the IMBD App and search until you find out. In a pinch Google searches make us all look and feel smarter than we probably are. This however is an unshakable feeling of loss that, until it is pinpointed to an origin, gnaws away at you like a dog on a bone until you get it back.
For the Phoenix Mercury in 2013 they had that feeling all year trying to figure out just what was missing.
They had their star back in Diana Taurasi, a rookie phenom in Brittney Griner, and a pair overqualified role players in DeWanna Bonner and Candace Dupree. That was good enough to get them to the Conference Finals, but then fell short as they were missing something. Missing someone...
What they were missing was leadership, fearlessness, 13.0 points per game, 3.0 rebounds per game, 2.6 assists per game, and 5.0 free-throw attempts per game as a starter.
They were missing their (lucky) Penny Taylor.
Statistical impact only begins to describe the former robin to Diana Taurasi's batman in this line-up. Over the years her game has regressed because of injuries and age, but Taylor is still the same impact player she was five years ago when the Mercury won their second title in three years. Her demeanor, attitude, and presence have been a major boost for the team in a uniform rather than in a suit.
While Taylor is no longer the robin for this team she has the ability to play that role when necessary, like Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat, doing what is necessary no matter what that means.
Then rising to the occasion when it matters the most.
"For me I'm not concerned about how much I do or how little I do," Penny Taylor on her role with the team. "At this point in my career I'm not concerned about scoring 20 points. It is all about helping in the right ways. I'm just playing a role and I am happy to do that."
Since being inserted into the starting line-up five games ago the Mercury are 5-0 on the season riding a five game winning streak (6-3 overall with her on the bench) and the team has found a gear to play with that suits them.
"She give us size, shooting, another play-maker, and on the flip side we put DB on the ball and she is guarding everyone," Taurasi on Taylor's impact on the entire team. "She is pretty much Scottie Pippen out there."
What happens with Taylor on the floor is more than points, rebounds, assists, and statistical impact on the court. She bonds the team together allowing Bonner to play great defense, Griner to have more one-on-one opportunities, Taurasi to get breaks in play-making, and Erin Phillips to come off the bench to lead the second unit. Her impact has fingerprints on every aspect of the game as Taurasi touched on with the change in Bonner's role.
After tonight's game barring unforeseen circumstances Taylor will have already doubled her minutes played in only 15 games so far this year from last year. The team made the conference finals with Taylor as a part-time player, part-time spectator and this year, the sky seems to be the limit.
Taylor is crashing at the rim, getting to the free-throw line, and playing like a vintage 2007 version of herself right now.
"I think I have always played that way and I think it kind of helps me with the injuries as well (laughs)..." Taylor assessing herself. "I do what I need to do. I'm better going to the basket and I've never been a mid-range player so this is pretty much what I have always done."
In a unique way Taylor is not allowing her injuries to scare her into a timid approach to the game, but flipping the script on common philosphy using the injuries as a rationale to play harder.
Like, what else can go wrong. I am just going to go play ball.
Penny Taylor is ballin' and the Mercury have found their Lucky Penny.