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She's back! Brittney Griner works out in front of cameras ahead of return to WNBA

Griner was seen practicing her shooting and interacting with members of the Suns, including Deandre Ayton.

PHOENIX — For the first time since Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner returned from Russia, she was on the practice court at the Verizon 5G Performance Center in Phoenix.

Griner appeared on the court after the Phoenix Suns finished practice for the day. 

She was seen practicing her shooting and interacting with members of the Suns, including Deandre Ayton.   

Her first words to the media after seeing all of the reporters at practice were, "Phoenix Mercury practice going to just like this, right?"  

Mercury General Manager Jim Pitman said that the team is preparing for a lot of media coverage during the upcoming season during his appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM's Bickley and Marotta show on Wednesday. 

"We expect that every night will be a media circus for us,” Pitman said. “We’re going to see a lot of people who want to see BG, want to celebrate her, want to be part of what she’s meant to our country here. I think that we have to be prepared to play in front of those white-hot spotlights every night, but I think we’re built to do that." 

At her workout today, Griner, who cut her dreadlocks due to them freezing in Russia, asked Ayton if he liked her haircut saying, "You feeling it?" 

 Ayton responded, "I like it." Ayton was also very excited to see Griner back on the court.

"It was unreal," Ayton said. "(I was) really just speechless just watching her, seeing her reaction, her face, and her just being back and trying to get back in shape and just loving to do what she loves to do. You can tell her mind is free. And everyone is happy for her, so we're just letting her suit back up and polish some things up and she's going to get back to the old BG dunking on these folks." 

Griner officially re-signed with the Mercury earlier this week, just days after the 1-year anniversary of her being wrongfully detained in Russia, accused of carrying hashish oil in her luggage.  

Griner ended up spending 294 days in Russian custody before a prisoner exchange allowed her to come home.  

Griner vowed to play in the WNBA this season when she was released in December.  

The 6-foot-9 center last played for the Mercury in 2021, when the team made it to the WNBA Finals. She averaged 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in 2021.

She is taking a 32% pay cut on her one-year contract to return, which allowed the Mercury to also re-sign longtime teammate Diana Taurasi.   

The Mercury open their season on May 19th against the Los Angeles Sparks in LA, and Griner will make her return to the Footprint Center on May 21st against the Chicago Sky.  

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