San Francisco Chronicle

Griner confirms return to Mercury on one-year contract


Brittney Griner's return to the Phoenix Mercury was confirmed as the team announced a one-year contract with the free agent center.

Griner, 32, had said she would return to Phoenix in a social media post in December, after she returned home from her 10month detainment in Russia.

Griner had been arrested at an airport just outside of Moscow on drug possession charges a year ago and was brought home in a dramatic high-level prisoner exchange in December.

“We missed BG every day that she was gone and, while basketball was not our primary concern, her presence on the floor, in our locker room, around our organizati­on, and within our community was greatly missed,” Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said.

The 6-9 center last played for the Mercury in 2021 and helped the team reach the WNBA Finals. She averaged 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds that season.

ELSEWHERE O’Reilly’s hat trick carries Maple Leafs

Newly acquired center Ryan O'Reilly scored twice on Toronto's first two shots on net and added an empty-net goal in the Maple Leafs' 6-3 win at Buffalo. Playing his third game in four nights since being traded to Toronto by St. Louis, O'Reilly scored 37 seconds apart in an opening period the Maple Leafs led 4-0 on goals scored in a span of 8:18.

In other NHL games, Sam Montembeau­lt stopped three breakaways and made 37 saves as Montreal stunned New Jersey 5-2, snapping the Devils' sixgame home winning streak. Pius Suter scored twice, Robert Hagg ended a 75-game goal drought and Detroit won for the sixth time in seven games with a 3-1 victory at Washington. Andrei Svechnikov scored twice in the first eight minutes to break a 19-game goal drought as host Carolina beat St. Louis 4-1. Nick Paul scored the first of four Tampa Bay goals in a span of 5:55 in the second period, and Brayden Point scored his 200th NHL goal as the Lightning dealt visiting Anaheim its sixth straight loss 6-1.

MLS: Major League Soccer is expanding its playoffs to include the nine top finishers from each of its conference­s, 62 percent of the league's teams.

An opening “wild card” round will feature matches between the eighth- and ninth-seeded teams in the Eastern and Western conference­s at the home of the higher seed. Previously, the top seven teams in each conference made the playoffs.

The first round will be a bestof-three series, with the top finisher in each conference facing the winner of the wild-card match. The second seed will play the seventh, No. 3 will play No. 6 and No. 4 will play No. 5. The higher seed will host first, with the series moving to the lower seed for the second game, and then back to the higher seed's home if necessary. The conference semifinals, finals and MLS Cup championsh­ip will all be single games, hosted by the higher seed.

College football: Authoritie­s in Las Vegas are investigat­ing the death of a 20-year-old UNLV player who was found unresponsi­ve in bed in an apartment, officials said. The Clark County coroner said a cause and manner of defensive lineman Ryan Keeler's death was pending following his death Monday.

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