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Skylar Diggins-Smith reflects on journey to Storm after Mercury exit

Percy Allen, The Seattle Times on

Published in Basketball

While Skylar Diggins-Smith savored a win against the Phoenix Mercury, the 10-year veteran star briefly reflected on her time with her old team and expressed satisfaction with the resolution of an acrimonious breakup that led her to the Storm.

“The grass is definitely greener for me,” she said after Seattle’s 80-62 win on June 4. “Just really focused on being here where I’m planted and trying to make sure I’m focused for this role on this team and all of my energy is where my feet are planted.”

In many ways, Diggins-Smith has mentally moved past a once-prosperous four-year tenure in Phoenix, where she made three of her six trips to the WNBA All-Star Game and comprised a dominant trio with Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner that carried the Mercury to the 2021 WNBA Finals.

However, the good times didn’t last long.

Diggins-Smith played her last game for Phoenix on Aug. 4, 2022, when she abruptly stepped away and missed the final four games of the season due to what was termed personal reasons.

Without their scoring and assist leader, the Mercury were swept 0-2 in the playoffs.

Soon after, Diggins-Smith publicly revealed her pregnancy and sat out the 2023 season on maternity leave after giving birth to her second child.

At the time, Diggins-Smith said Phoenix explored trade talks involving her and she voiced frustration with the Mercury for not allowing her to use the team’s facility while on maternity leave.

After signing a two-year, $422,685 deal with the Storm in February as a free agent, Diggins-Smith talked about a difficult bout with postpartum depression and how close she was to quitting basketball.

“I questioned, ‘Could I do this? Do I want to do this?’” she said. “I didn’t feel like I wanted to keep playing. I didn’t know. It’s been tough. … [I thought] I might just retire. I might just leave.”

Diggins-Smith thanked her friend and trainer Bridget Pettis, the former Chicago Sky assistant, for helping her get back into shape.

“I lost 50 pounds,” Diggins-Smith said. “I was 204 pounds and I play at 145. I [couldn’t] move. I [couldn’t] run. I [couldn’t] walk. Since my daughter was 2-3 months we’ve been in that gym. … [Pettis] got me back to that belief that I feel stronger than I was before, and I didn’t think that was possible. Going through postpartum stuff, you just never know where you’re going to be at, and she pulled me out of another place. I can’t say enough what Bridget meant to this journey.”

 

Diggins-Smith also credits her husband, Daniel, who cares for their two kids while she’s on the road, and a close-knit support group that has allowed the 33-year-old point guard to once again play at an elite level.

“Sky likes to say that this is her third body because of the changes she’s physically gone through during two pregnancies,” Storm coach Noelle Quinn said. “This version of her that we’re seeing is still developing and she’s not anywhere near to being a finished product. We need to give her grace and time to get comfortable with herself and get comfortable with this new team.

“But I like what I’m seeing from her.”

Diggins-Smith, who ranks fifth in the league with 5.8 assists per game, is averaging 15.4 points and 1.5 steals, while shooting 40.2% from the field.

“She is really brilliant in how she approaches the game while still maintaining that killer mentality,” forward Nneka Ogwumike said Thursday after Diggins-Smith had 21 points and six assists during a 92-84 win against the Dallas Wings. “There’s just so much going on in her head because she’s trying to be aggressive, she’s trying to get us in spots and she’s thinking about how the game is flowing.

“To be able to play with someone who is so cerebral, but also very physical is very rare. She’s the head of the snake. I go as she goes. My job is maintain her energy.”

Diggins-Smith has faced the Mercury twice this season, including a preseason victory, but Sunday marks her first return to Phoenix when the Storm (9-4) take on the Mercury (6-7) at noon at Footprint Center.

Early in the season, Diggins-Smith sidestepped questions about Phoenix, but these days she’s comfortable talking about her journey back to basketball, which began when she walked away from the Mercury nearly two years ago.

“I’m really just present at this time in my life,” Diggins-Smith said. “I won a lot of battles that a lot of people didn’t see. I won a lot of battles that people got to see a piece of and maybe I’m still battling. But this has been a season of transitioning for me. A season of grace for me and growth. I’m just really present.

“I’ve been focused on being at where my feet are and focusing on what my passion is and what my purpose is. And it really has been family. Obviously, I’m passionate about this game and this team. This organization has welcomed me with open arms. I’ve really been very intentional about the people I keep around me, who I listen to, who I let in my space and who brings value to my life. I’ve been having a lot of self-awareness with that. I’m in a peaceful place right now. I’m happy to be here in this organization. And I’m looking forward to more fun times and continue to grow.”

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©2024 The Seattle Times. Visit seattletimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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