Brittney Griner targets WNBA return in 2023 in first public statement since being released from Russian prison | NBA News

Brittney Griner said she’s grateful to be back in the United States and plans on playing basketball again next season for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

Her comments came a week after she was released from a Russian prison as part of a prisoner exchange.

“It feels so good to be home!” Griner posted to Instagram on Friday in her first public statement since her release.

“The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn. I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help.”

Griner was arrested in February in Russia on drug-related charges and was later convicted and sentenced to nine years in a Russian jail.

After months of strained negotiations, and a rare public revelation by the Biden administration that it had made a substantial proposal to bring home Griner and another detained American, Paul Whelan, the case resolved last week with a prisoner swap in which the WNBA star was exchanged in the United Arab Emirates for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

“President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home too,” Griner said.

“I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you. I also encourage everyone that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole.”

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WNBA player Brittney Griner has been released in a prisoner swap for Russian citizen Viktor Bout, a former arms dealer.

Griner thanked the military staff and medical team in Texas, where she was receiving care after returning to the U.S. last week.

She wrote that she would transition home to enjoy the holidays with her family but did not say where.

While WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said she was going to give Griner all the time she needed to decide whether she wanted to play basketball again, Griner made it clear that: “I intend to play basketball for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season, and in doing so, I look forward to being able to say thank you to those of you who advocated, wrote, and posted for me in person soon.”

The Mercury open the season on the road against the Los Angeles Sparks on May 19. The team’s first home game is two days later against the Chicago Sky.

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