Diana Taurasi heard from a familiar friend Tuesday morning as she got ready for USA Basketball practice in Minneapolis.
"How's camp?" Brittney Griner texted Taurasi, her longtime teammate on both the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and Team USA.
USA Basketball is in the middle of a mini camp, with 14 WNBA athletes - plus veteran Angel McCoughtry, who is currently unsigned - participating. But Griner, the two-time Olympian, isn't there as she continues to recover after being wrongfully detained in Russia for almost 10 months.
She's missed at camp, Taurasi said - but she's not forgotten. And for Taurasi, just knowing that her longtime teammate and close friend is back home brings her joy, and relief.
"I'm not a person who lives in a fake world of optimism," Taurasi said. "I lived in Russia for 10 years; I knew how serious it was. I thought it would be a long time before I saw my friend again. Every single day (she was gone), we suffered. Not until I saw her did I believe it. Just to see her smile was emotional for everyone."
What's Griner doing now?
Taurasi - who, like Griner, lives in Phoenix year-round - said she's been in regular contact with Griner, trading "too many jokes that I can't share and too many stories that I can't share."
Taurasi, who along with Phoenix Mercury President Vince Kozar and General Manager Jim Pitman surprised Griner in Texas after she was flown back to the states, said that while the detainment and hostage situation is unique, Taurasi and others understood "the minute we got to Phoenix that now it's a whole new set of challenges, a whole new reality for BG. All I can say is that she's in a great place and so thankful to be home, she's got so much admiration for people who pushed and helped to bring her home."
Taurasi said Griner is "a work in progress" when it comes to returning to normal life but seemed in awe of Griner's general attitude.
"One thing that has never left BG is the ability to make people happy and make people smile," Taurus said. "BG always finds a way to find lightness."
USA Basketball coach Cheryl Reeve told reporters on Monday that while she hasn't personally talked to Griner, USAB has made it clear that the two-time Olympian can take all the time she needs before returning to the court.
"We've missed her and when she's ready we'll welcome her back," Reeves said.
Griner has previously said she intends to play for the Mercury during the 2023 season.
Brianna Turner, who has played in Phoenix with Griner since 2019, is thrilled that they'll soon be reunited.
"When I heard she wanted to play, it honestly didn't even surprise me," said Turner, who added that she hasn't seen Griner in person but texts with her regularly. "BG is such a competitor and she loves the game of basketball. It might have been hard for her to just walk away from it. I'm excited she's going to give it a try and I'm sure she's going to be really successful again."
Will Griner play again in the Olympics?
Should she decide she wants to go to Paris, Griner would almost certainly be on the 2024 Olympic roster.
As one of - if not the - best centers in the world, Griner brings an intimidating presence to the paint, using her long arms to swat and alter numerous shots (she's a two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year). The six-time WNBA All-Star is a handful on offense too, and one of few women's players to consistently dunk. Along with her two Olympic gold medals, Griner has also won two World Championship golds.
Taurasi, for one, is confident that Griner will return to international competition.
"She wants to be part of this," Taurasi said. "And she'll find her footing."
In September during the FIBA World Cup, USA Basketball announced that no one would wear Griner's No. 15 - they were waiting for her to come back and claim it herself.
Contributing: Nancy Armour
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brittney Griner missing from USA Basketball, but in touch with Taurasi