Brittney Griner among top earners in WNBA with new Mercury deal

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner had a very good reason Sunday for traveling back to Arizona from Russia, where she plays during the WNBA offseason.

Griner, the Mercury's 2013 No. 1 overall pick and a three-time WNBA All-Star, signed a new multiyear contract, which was announced before the Phoenix Suns' Sunday night game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Griner, who earned a little more than $60,000 in the last year of her rookie WNBA contract in 2016, is now expected to be among the top earners in the league, though still making significantly less than she earns to play in Russia, where she reportedly gets close to $1 million a year.

"Brittney Griner is the present and the future of the WNBA, and we are fortunate to guarantee she continues her growth here in Phoenix," Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said in a release announcing the deal. "Building a championship team starts on the defensive end, and this move keeps the best rim-protector in the history of the women's game in a Mercury uniform for the foreseeable future. Griner has changed the way the WNBA game is played, she has rewritten record books in just four years, and she is already a champion."

Aside from leading the Mercury to the 2014 WNBA title, the 26-year-old Griner has been named WNBA Defensive Player of the Year twice, averages 14.5 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and owns league records for blocks in a game (11) and season (129). Griner also has eight of the 14 dunks in WNBA history.

The Mercury begin their 2017 season on May 14.