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Taurasi's still the greatest

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published July 28. 2013 4:00AM
Dana Jensen/ The Day
Diana Taurasi of the West makes a no-look pass around the defense of the East's Cappie Pondexter during Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena. The ex-UConn star remains one of the game's top attractions.

Mohegan

Diana Taurasi's talent for basketball has no chance - never has - against her real talent, otherwise known as serve-and-volley on the podium with the cameras rolling and questioners questioning. Among the topics she addressed Saturday after the WNBA All-Star game:

• UConn and Tennessee should play again, although it would be nice if Tennessee made the Final Four now and then.

• She would engage Swin Cash in a duel of past and present ESPN The Magazine Body Issue subjects, challenging her former teammate to "full frontal."

• She said she gets the occasional text from Chris Dailey, UConn's associate head coach, calling CD "that cranky aunt I've never had."

She could have sat there for hours - and who would have minded - wisecracking the day away, in need only of Paul Simon in the background:

She would not be convicted by a jury of her peers, still crazy after all these years.

All these years, indeed.

It was July 18, 1999 (the day David Cone pitched his perfect game) when she was first introduced to Connecticut, via a couple of newspaper stories from UConn beat writers who attended the Nike All American Camp in Indianapolis. Diana was a high school kid from Chino, Calif., an entire country away. Who knew … this?

The writers took one look at her game, talked to her after and later joked to Geno Auriemma that if he needed to cheat to get her, they'd make sure the entire state looked the other way.

Diana is 31 years old now. She's the leading scorer in the WNBA. She won another news conference Saturday, extending her news conference streak to somewhere past Ripken and Gehrig. She is the greatest there's ever been, the greatest there will ever be in the women's basketball, at least until another player comes along who can deliver the whole package - assassin, comedian, tactician - perpetually and faithfully.

We got to see her here all weekend, Diana Unplugged, although rare is the day she's plugged. And it was here that you realized your good fortune to be in her presence again all these years later, knowing you should be smart enough to enjoy it.

The baseball fan says: "I got to see Mo pitch."

The women's basketball fan says: "I got to see Diana play."

Taurasi's appearance in the all-star game Saturday was her first game of the week. That's because the league suspended her for a game in Minnesota last Wednesday because she was slapped recently with her seventh technical foul of the season. This is called channeling her inner Rasheed Wallace.

So an inquiring mind asked Taurasi, who happened to be sitting alone for a second Friday, how she could explain seven technicals in 18 games.

"Pretty easy," she said. "Just watch the games."

Connecticut Sun fans, who have been known to voice their objections with WNBA officiating, might have chuckled at that. Except Taurasi wasn't finished. She was asked what could be done to remedy the officiating issue.

"You probably have to ask the league," she said. "I mean the coaching has gotten better, the players have gotten better, the fans have gotten better ..."

She finished the sentence with a wry grin.

Then she said, "I probably speak for every player in this league that consistency is something that I don't think is always there. That frustrates a lot of players, not just myself. I just don't hold back. A lot of other players don't hold back either, but they seem to get a little more rope."

Stand back. She's rolling.

"Overseas," Taurasi said, "the officiating is consistently bad, so you can live with it."

This is not meant to take a sledgehammer to the officials. Just to illustrate that Diana brings an element, a je-ne-sais-quoi, no other player in the history of the game ever has.

Maybe that's why Brittney Griner has such a smile on her face now. She gets to be herself, not Baylor's affectation. Plus, she's learning from the best. And this just in: Taurasi really likes her.

"A relationship either happens or it doesn't. You can't try to force it. People asked me before she came to Phoenix, 'did you text her? Call her? E-mail her?' No. When I meet her I meet her. She's who she is and I am who I am. We complement each other. We like each other.

"I'm telling you she's one of the funniest people I know and that comes from her being herself," Taurasi said. "She'll learn how to put up walls when she gets older. Right now, she's uncensored and gives you no fake. It's kind of cool. I like that she is what she is."

And doesn't that sound familiar?

Let the record show that Candace Parker won the MVP here Saturday. Parker is the most talented player in the game. But she's not the best. She's not the whole package. That's Diana Taurasi until further notice. How lucky we were she was back in Connecticut for the weekend.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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