Sophie Cunningham was all smiles during her introductory press conference on March 10. The forward had just signed a two-year deal to stay with the Phoenix Mercury and was asked about what it means to have Brittney Griner back with the team.

“It is so amazing. Like it’s night and day, for real,” Cunningham said last Friday. “I know everyone is excited to see her on the court, but just to have her around the facilities. To get dinner, hang out at her house, play games. Just to have your sister and friend back with you, it feels amazing.

“For me, I just want her to have so much fun and if she balls out, she balls out.”

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Griner spent nearly 10 months in prison after Russia detained her over a year ago for having hashish oil in her bag at a Russian airport as she was attempting to go back to the United States. She missed the 2022 WNBA campaign after coming off arguably her best season the previous year. Griner helped the Mercury return to the WNBA Finals in 2021 but fell short to the Chicago Sky in four games.

Shey Peddy, who also signed a deal with the Mercury to return after she has found a spot in the rotation over the last two seasons, expressed her excitement having Brittney Griner back in the fold.

“It’s a new system for her, some new coaches,” said Peddy. “She’s just a great overall human being. Just to see her smiling and happy after all that she’s went through is just the best part of everything.”