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Suns JaVale McGee joins NBA’s call for Brittney Griner’s return

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When Phoenix Mercury star center Brittney Griner was initially detained in Russia back in February, NBA players weren’t so quick to talk up on the situation.

Suns backup center JaVale McGee explained why on ESPN’s First Take.

“When it first happened, it was more it’s a sensitive subject and something we actually don’t need to touch on because Russia is in a war without delay and there’s quite a bit happening and things that we actually can’t even imagine without delay,” McGee said Tuesday morning.

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner sits during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix.

Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February.

“After we got the OK, or not less than the top nod to talk on it, everybody was adamant, but internally, everybody was talking about it,” McGee continued. “It’s a crazy situation. Any person within the WNBA is one in all our own. To be locked up abroad for something that’s legal in America, which is even crazier.”

Over time, several NBA players like McGee’s teammate Chris Paul and head coach Monty Williams, together with Lakers forwards LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver have used their platform to debate Griner’s situation.

“I just don’t understand why she isn’t here yet, why she isn’t back already,” McGee said. “It’s a variety of things happening on this world and the proven fact that we’ve a, not even that she is an expert basketball player, but just an American held in Russia over in jail without delay is crazy. Something should’ve been done once we first heard about it, when it first happened.”

Griner, 31, was detained at a Moscow airport in February after vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis were allegedly present in her luggage.

The WNBA star faces drug smuggling charges that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

The Mercury met Monday with members of the USA Department of State to debate Griner’s status.

“We would like BG to return home as soon as possible, it’s primary on our list,” Mercury teammate Diana Taurasi said in a news release.

Report: Brittney Griner’s pretrial detention prolonged again by Russian court

Read more: Brittney Griner receiving, answering family members, WNBA players’ emails

“Once we knew that BG was classified as wrongfully detained, that was a signal to us all. It’s something that we’ve all talked about intimately as a bunch and now knowing the State Department at the very best level, from U.S President Joe Biden to the team that’s working on bringing back all Americans who’re wrongfully detained, gives us a variety of confidence that they’re working on it.”

After that meeting, the team talked with Greg Stanton (Arizona) and Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas) from the U.S. Congress.

“For the team, coaches and executives on the Mercury, day-after-day without Brittney is a lifetime,” said Stanton in a news release. “I used to be glad for the chance to share the work we’re doing in Congress to secure Brittney’s release.” 

Stanton is leading a bipartisan resolution in Congress for Griner’s immediate exit from Russia, in response to a news release.

“It was great to listen to from the State Department that we must always proceed to amplify that message and that we must always proceed to press all those that have any influence or power to assist bring BG home,” Mercury first-year coach Vanessa Nygaard in a news release. “She’s our teammate, she’s an American and we would like her back home.”

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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