WNBPA backs Diana Taurasi

Women's National Basketball Players Association interim executive director Michele Roberts voiced support Thursday for Diana Taurasi's decision to sit out the 2015 WNBA season.

"Diana is one of the most dynamic players and fiercest competitors in the history of basketball," Roberts said in a statement. "Her decision appears prudent, measured and totally understandable. It is clearly a loss for the Phoenix Mercury and the entire WNBA, but we look forward to her scheduled return in 2016."

Taurasi stunned the league and fans with her announcement Tuesday. The Phoenix Mercury star accepted an offer from her Russian club team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, which will pay her more than her 2014 WNBA salary not to play, sources told espnW. Taurasi made just less than the WNBA league maximum of $107,000 last year.

Taurasi's contract with UMMC pays her nearly $1.5 million this winter. The team wants her rested and healthy for next season.

Taurasi also cited the grind of a decade's worth of playing both in the U.S. and overseas in agreeing with UMMC's request.

"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," she wrote in a letter to fans.

Roberts -- executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, who recently added WNBA duties to her job description -- backed Taurasi's reasoning.

"WNBA players who play year-round endure tremendous wear and tear and their dedication and sacrifice in order to grow the game and the league should be applauded," Roberts said. "Like Diana, their contributions to the WNBA over the years cannot be overstated, especially in light of the more lucrative opportunities potentially available overseas."

The first-year union leader has not been shy about voicing her displeasure with the current NBA collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated by the previous regime, and Roberts again was outspoken in her statement Thursday.

"Our players' commitment to the WNBA has exceeded all expectations particularly in light of the grueling schedules they endure," she said.

"Therefore, it is unfortunate that in the most recent round of bargaining the WNBA owners insisted on the imposition of significant penalties on players who may have to miss some portion of the WNBA season in order to fulfill overseas commitments. Our hope is that these penalties do not have the unfortunate, unintended consequence of discouraging some players from playing for the WNBA."

However, earlier in the week, league president Laurel Richie expressed her support for Taurasi's decision.

"We recognize that the WNBA is part of the global community of women's basketball and that our players play in the WNBA and in leagues around the world," she said. "The WNBA is, and will remain, the destination for the very best women's basketball players in the world."