Diana Taurasi still eyeing Olympics, but realistic about challenges

Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi is still hoping to play in her fifth Olympics but wonders if the Summer Games will even take place in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During an Instagram Live chat on Tuesday with Geno Auriemma -- Taurasi's former college coach at UConn -- she was asked about the Tokyo Games, which were delayed a year, and the WNBA season, which was scheduled to start this week but has been postponed indefinitely.

Taurasi, who will turn 38 on June 11, missed most of last season with back and hamstring issues. She said those health issues have made her realistic about how difficult it is to predict her playing future.

"Who knows ... a year from now, a month from now, I might not be playing basketball. I just don't know," Taurasi said. "When you get to my age, when things get put on hold, it makes it tougher to stay ready for when it will happen.

"And it sounds like [the Olympics] won't even happen next year, from what I hear. I just don't think anyone is going to be able to handle that many people coming in."

"The same with the WNBA and the NBA," Taurasi continued. "Is the reward bigger than the risk? As a league, as a business, can you tell me that I'm going to be safe? And the way this [coronavirus] spreads, how can you do that? I don't know how they can do it."

The WNBA held its draft on April 17, and commissioner Cathy Engelbert has said the league will continue to explore possibilities about playing this year. If that doesn't happen, Taurasi said Tuesday, she wonders how it will impact the rookies, in particular. Taurasi also said she doesn't think Phoenix has had many rookies recently who came into the league really ready to play.

"I don't know what it's attributed to. I don't know if that's [because] the style of play is completely different from college," she said. "But it's been a little bit of a shock seeing these kids come to the WNBA and have to learn so much about a game they've been playing their whole life.

"I think the synergy between the WNBA and college could get better. I understand when you're in college, you want the kids to do what you need them to do for you to win to keep your job. But at the same time, I think you have to get them ready for the pro level and for a profession that they are going to have to be really good at to make a team."

Auriemma said that's part of why he is as demanding as he is on his players at UConn.

"If you come in with that mentality that you're the best player in the country," he said, "if you leave here and you're not the best player, then I did something wrong."

Taurasi responded, "That's literally the only way to go about it. And if you don't do it, you're shortchanging these kids."

"And we've had a lot of people who have a lot of success in college and it doesn't translate in the WNBA," she said. "Because now you're playing people older, stronger, smarter. And if you're not at that level when you get there, you're gone quick."