Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner thanked the media for covering her detainment and eventual imprisonment in Russia in her first press conference since she returned to the United States Thursday at Footprint Center in Phoenix. Via NBA TV:

Griner also encouraged a reported 90 media members in attendance to provide similar coverage for the Mercury, who will play their first preseason game March 9. 

“That coverage was much-needed,” Griner said. 

“I expect to see this same coverage, because we have a great product.” 

Griner answered questions in her press conference about her return to WNBA play after she signed a one-year, $165,100 contract with the Mercury in February. Mercury media said in a press release before the event Griner would not answer questions about her time in Russia. 

Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia on Aug. 4 after she was detained in February for carrying vaporizer cartridges that contained hashish oil. Griner was released in December in a 1-for-1 prisoner swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout. 

Griner, who is an eight-time WNBA All-Star and considered one of the best players in the league, spoke about her resiliency to go through a seven-month stay in Russia before she returned home. 

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“Just digging deep, honestly,” Griner said. “You’re going to be faced with adversities throughout your life. This was a pretty big one. But I just kind of relied on my hard work, getting through it. 

“You can never stand still, and that was my thing. Just never be still. Never get too focused on the down, just looking forward to what’s to come.” 

Griner, who was in Russia to play for the women’s basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason, also said she would not play overseas again unless she represented the United States in the Olympics.

“If I make that team, that’d be the only time I’d leave U.S. soil,” Griner said.

Griner was not made available for 1-on-1 interviews after Thursday’s press conference. She will next speak at the Mercury’s Media Day May 3 in a 10-minute time slot.

When Griner last played in the WNBA, she helped lead the Mercury to the 2021 Finals. Phoenix lost that series against the Chicago Sky, three games to one.

Brittney Griner won a championship with the Mercury in 2014 and is seeking a return to form after she averaged 20.5 points with a career-best 9.5 rebounds per game in 2021.