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Becky Hammon makes season debut; Young-Malcolm faces Griner for first time

Becky Hammon played a complete WNBA game for the first time since late 2012 Friday.
Becky Hammon played a complete WNBA game for the first time since late 2012 Friday.
Scott Mammoser

For Becky Hammon, 2013 lasted 12 minutes.

The seven-time WNBA All-Star guard returned to action July 6, 2013, after missing the San Antonio Silver Stars’ first month of the season with a broken finger. She played 12 minutes in the game at Los Angeles, made one basket and tore her left ACL, sidelining her for the season.

After missing the Stars’, who have since dropped “Silver” from their name, first two regular season games this year with a left ankle sprain, Hammon debuted in San Antonio’s 78-74 win at the Phoenix Mercury Friday night, scoring eight points and dishing four assists in 23 minutes.

“I’m trying to find my way a little bit, but it’s nice to get the first one under my belt,” said Hammon, who played 29 minutes in two preseason games. “I just wanted to take what they gave me, not force anything, trying to get some of my timing, my footwork back, my steps, but overall, just a great team win, and that’s the way we need to do it.”

In her 15th year out of Colorado State, the 37-year-old trails only New York’s DeLisha Milton-Jones in experience. Named one of the WNBA’s 15 greatest players in 2011, the 5-foot-6 Hammon has averaged 13.3 points for her career, with a high of 19.5 in 2009. She was first-team All-WNBA in 2007, led Russia to a bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and also played for them in both the 2010 FIBA World Championships and 2012 London Games.

“It’s been a journey,” Hammon said. “I’ve worked really hard to get back to this point, I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in rehab trying to get my feet under me, but it’s all been worth it, we have a long season ahead of us, so I’ll take it game by game and work on what I need to work on.”

Also returning this season for San Antonio is Sophia Young-Malcolm, the 6-foot-1 three-time All-Star forward, who tore her ACL playing professionally in China in 2013 and missed the entire WNBA season.

“Definitely missing last year was tough for us, but coming back, it’s exciting to be here,” Young-Malclom said. “It was a struggle, sitting out and going through the rehab process.”

In 2012, Young-Malcolm averaged 16.3 points and was named first-team All-Defensive and second-team All-WNBA. She scored nine points Friday after eight in each of her first two. She rose to fame in 2005, leading Baylor University to the national championship, seven years before current Mercury center Brittney Griner led the Bears to an undefeated one. This was their first career meeting.

“I think she’s developed really well,” Young-Malcolm said of Griner. “I think her overseas play will help her grow a little more, obviously with basketball, you can never get good enough, so I feel like I have to grow, she has to grow, but we’re good.”

Griner scored 12 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds in the loss Friday.

“I’ve always seen her play, I’ve never gotten to play against her, but (laughs) she got a foul on me,” Griner said of Young-Malcolm.

Also very familiar with Hammon and Young-Malcolm is Mercury coach Sandy Brondello, who was an assistant in San Antonio from 2005 to 2009 and the head coach in 2010.

“It’s great, they’re two of my favorite players,” Brondello said. “Becky’s one of the best shooters in the WNBA, very crafty and a great finisher, it’s good to see them back on the court. They played hard, and they played well today.”