By: Kels Dayton
(WTNH)–Former UConn great Diana Taurasi has decided to sit out the 2015 WNBA season in order to rest up for her winter job with a Russian league team.
The two-time WNBA Finals MVP plays winter basketball for UMMC Ekaterinburg of the Russian Premier League, where she earns almost $1.5 million. But the Russian team will pay Taurasi more than her WNBA salary–a league-maximum $107,000–not to play with the Mercury next season. The team wants her rested and healthy for the start of its 2015 campaign.
So, Taurasi decided it made financial sense to take the summer off.
“Since 2004, when I started professional basketball, it has been a cycle, a cycle that I have enjoyed so much,” Taurasi told espnW.com. “With my team in Russia, a conversation began about making sure I’m at an elite level for a long time with them. I put everything on the table and weighed all of my options and made the best decision.”
“I’m lucky to have these options,” she continued. “It speaks volumes on how UMMC values our relationship and vice versa. For 10 years, I have never had any significant time off.”
In a letter to Mercury fans, Taurasi wrote: “The year-round nature of women’s basketball takes its toll and the financial opportunity with my team in Russia would have been irresponsible to turn down. They offered to pay me to rest and I’ve decided to take them up on it. I want to be able to take care of myself and my family when I am done playing.”
Taurasi said she does intend to return for the 2016 WNBA season, and said that she would like to play for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
Mercury general manager Jim Pittman released the following statement to fans:
“Regrettably, I must inform you that Mercury guard Diana Taurasi will not play the 2015 WNBA season. Diana has a lucrative contract with the Russian team for which she has played during the last several WNBA offseasons. That contract includes an offer to pay her to rest this summer. With that, and the prospect of playing in the 2016 Olympics and future WNBA seasons, she has chosen to rest during the 2015 season.
“The duration of a professional athlete’s playing career is finite; and, as such, Diana has elected to do what she feels is right for her, her family, and her post-basketball life. Though obviously disappointed, we respect her decision.”
Taurasi has won three WNBA championships with the Mercury, including the 2014 title. She is a seven-time All-Star and has spent all 11 of her seasons in Phoenix.
Many WNBA players also play winter basketball for teams in Europe and Asia, where they often make more money.
Taurasi’s Mercury teammate, former Baylor superstar Brittany Griner, plays in China during the winter.