2021 WNBA Finals: Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi hopes to keep playing at least through 2022 season

CHICAGO -- Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi said Saturday she plans to at least finish her current contract, which runs through the 2022 season. But she will wait until after the 2021 WNBA Finals are over and see how she feels during this offseason before making a decision on whether to retire.

"I hopefully can fulfill my obligation. But you never know," Taurasi told ESPN as the Mercury prepare for Sunday's Game 4 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App) at Chicago's Wintrust Arena. "The offseason is really long in the WNBA. With not playing overseas, it makes that eight months really, really long: to stay game-ready physically and mentally."

Taurasi and her wife, Penny Taylor, a former Mercury player, had their second child on Oct. 9, as daughter, Isla, joined 3-year-old son, Leo. Taurasi is finishing her 17th season in the WNBA. She will turn 40 in June.

"It's something I'll talk about with Penny and my family and really just do a little soul-searching to see if it's something I want to continue to do," Taurasi said of playing next season. "I'll take my time. When the season's over, I'll disappear like I usually do in the offseason and go back and see what we do."

Taurasi and the Mercury trail the Chicago Sky 2-1 in their best-of-five series. Phoenix lost 86-50 on Friday, the largest defeat in WNBA Finals history.

Taurasi, who was limited to 16 regular-season games while dealing with sternum, ankle and foot injuries, has won at every level, from NCAA championships at UConn to a fifth Olympic gold medal in August. Asked the last time she played in a championship game or series and didn't win, Taurasi said it was probably her senior year in high school in California.

What keeps her coming back?

"It sounds very simple, but I still love to play," Taurasi said. "And when I kind of go into that deep hole of not playing anymore, that's forever. That's a decision that you don't come back from when you're 40. Maybe when you're 25. But once I'm done, I'm done.

"To think of being in the Finals right now, there's still that urge to win, and to be with these guys. So I still love to play, I still love to grind."

Asked if the decision to continue will be more based on how she feels physically or mentally, Taurasi said it's both.

"The mental grind of it is no easy task. If you're going to play the whole season, you better be locked in," said Taurasi, who has competed in nine of Phoenix's 10 playoff games. "Or the season becomes very long and very difficult. And then that obviously wears on you physically.

"So it's, 'Am I willing to put in the six months of work to be able to play?' You know at this age, you can't just take four months off and think you're going to come and run around with these kids and be OK."

Taurasi said she has enjoyed being with this Mercury team. And she remains effective. In the regular season, she averaged 15.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists. She scored a playoff career-high 37 points in the semifinal series against Las Vegas, and her averages this postseason are 17.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.0 APG.

Already the WNBA's all-time leading scorer at 9,174 points, Taurasi could shoot for 10,000 -- although that very likely would take more than one additional season. She would need 826 points for that milestone; she has topped 800 points twice in her career: in 2006 and 2008. Her highest total during the past five years was 682 in 2018.

Taurasi said right after the Olympic gold-medal game, "See in Paris," alluding to the 2024 Summer Olympics. That might have been a joke, but Taurasi might also not be finished with USA Basketball.

The FIBA World Cup is Sept. 22 to Oct. 1 next year, and Taurasi's veteran leadership might be needed at least one more time.

Longtime USA teammate Sue Bird said she had played in her last Olympics after winning her fifth gold in the Tokyo Games, and it's unclear whether she'll compete in other international events.

"I think if you look into the future and I do play in the WNBA [next season], it kind of leads up to playing straight into the World Cup," Taurasi said. "And I'll talk to USA Basketball, see what they want to do. I mean, you know sometimes it's time to move on, and I understand that too."

Taurasi said she and Bird, who turned 41 on Saturday, communicate a lot about their playing futures. After Bird's Seattle Storm lost in the second round of the playoffs to Phoenix, Bird acknowledged she would need time to think about whether she will return for a 19th season next year.

"The conversation of playing and not playing, if you go into our thread, it's been going on for two, three years," Taurasi said. "As the season approaches, we both get into this competitive mode, and we always end up playing again. It's because we still love it."

Taurasi also said she hasn't spent much time thinking about what her second act will be whenever she finishes playing.

"Every time I try to think about that, it's this: Drinking a lot of coffee, hanging out with my family," she said. "It's really simple. I don't know if I have the energy to reimagine a different role in life. That would take thinking about a lot of things I just don't enjoy doing."

And Taurasi said while she feels honored to be picked recently as the WNBA's greatest player of all time by fans, she has too much respect for other players to claim that title. And none of that, she said, is why she plays.

"I've kind of just ignored it all to tell you the truth," Taurasi said. "I don't do social media, I don't go into the rabbit hole of what people say and think about me. I'm really just worried about what my teammates, my coaches, my family, my friends think.

"When people talk highly of me, it's nice. But that doesn't make me happy. That doesn't fulfill me. It's the relationships I've built here in Phoenix and, obviously, my family. Those are things that I've poured myself into. Because at the end of day, you know, all that other stuff is just hot air."