Mercury All-Star Brittney Griner to miss beginning of WNBA season with fractured toe

Phoenix Mercury All-Star center Brittney Griner will miss the beginning of the WNBA season with a fractured toe on her left foot.

The Mercury announced her injury Monday, a day before the start of the WNBA season. She'll be re-evaluated "in the coming weeks," per the team. It's unclear how or when she sustained the injury.

Phoenix opens its season Tuesday against the reigning champion Las Vegas Aces in a nationally televised game on ESPN2. Aces All-Star point guard Chelsea Gray will also miss the game with a lower-leg injury.

Griner, 33, is an eight-time All-Star and the Mercury's best player. She led the Mercury in points, rebounds and blocks last season while averaging 17.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 blocks per game.

Griner returned to the Mercury in 2023 after missing the 2022 season while imprisoned in Russia for 294 days. Per the U.S. government, which negotiated a prisoner swap to bring her home, Griner was "wrongfully detained" as a political prisoner under Vladimir Putin's regime. Russian officials detained Griner after she transported a vape cartridge containing 0.7 grams of hash oil with THC to a Russian airport.

Griner opened up publicly earlier in May for the first time about her imprisonment, more than two years after she was taken into custody. She described her dismal prison conditions and told ABC's Robin Roberts that she considered suicide taking her life in the first few weeks of her confinement

Brittney Griner will miss multiple weeks at the start of the WNBA season with a fractured toe. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Brittney Griner will miss multiple weeks at the start of the WNBA season with a fractured toe. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

After her release, she returned to the league largely to form while earning her eighth All-Star bid.

Phoenix finished a league-worst 9-31 last season, but enter the 2024 campaign with renewed hope following an offseason makeover. The Mercury have a new head coach in former Orlando Magic assistant Nate Tibbetts and a new general manager in former Golden State Warriors executive Nick U’Ren.

They traded for three-time All-Star and 2021 Finals MVP Kahleah Copper (18.7 ppg, 44.8 FG% in 2022) from the Chicago Sky and signed free-agent point guard Natasha Cloud (12.7 ppg, 6.2 apg) from the Washington Mystics to feature alongside Griner and former league MVP Diana Taurasi.

The loss of Griner marks a significant blow to the optimism surrounding the start of the season.