Brittney Griner goes through drills in first open workout since release

PHOENIX -- Brittney Griner worked out in front of cameras Thursday for the first time since her return from a 10-month detainment in Russia, two days after officially re-signing with the Phoenix Mercury.

Griner took the floor for an individual workout with Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard and worked on various shooting drills. Griner has worked out at the facility several days in the past week as she begins preparation for the start of the season in May.

The Suns had their longest practice in months Thursday as Kevin Durant had his first contact workout since spraining his knee Jan. 8 when he was with the Brooklyn Nets. It left Suns and Mercury players sharing the courts and Griner's presence added to the excitement in the facility.

"Just to see her out there practicing, running around ... it's unreal," Suns center Deandre Ayton said. "Her just being back, trying to get back in shape and just loving what she loves to do. Her mind is free, everybody's happy."

Griner, 32, had one of the best years of her career the last season she played in 2021, averaging 20.5 points, 1.9 blocks, 2.7 assists and career-highs with 9.5 rebounds per game, 2.4 offensive rebounds and a .846 free throw percentage.

Griner returned to the U.S. in December after a dramatic prisoner swap in which the WNBA star was exchanged in the United Arab Emirates for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Since returning home from Russia, Griner has been out of the public spotlight, with the exception of appearances at the Super Bowl, the Phoenix Open and an MLK Day event in Phoenix, where she lives.

She skipped a USA Basketball training camp earlier this month, but the organization made it clear she could take all the time she needed to decide if she wanted to play for the U.S. again.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.