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Sky’s James Wade shares support for Brittney Griner

LOS ANGELES — After the Sky’s 80-68 win over the Sparks on Thursday night, general manager/coach James Wade spent the first two minutes of his news conference talking about Brittney Griner.

“The game is important, we won, but there are some things that are more important,” Wade said. “I want to talk about Brittney Griner. She had a hearing today, and I was very proud of my old club, UMMC Ekaterinburg, managementand her Russian teammates who spoke up for her today in court.”

Griner has been detained in Russia for nearly 150 days after authorities at a Moscow-area airport found cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage. The Biden administration officially considers Griner to be wrongfully detained. Griner entered a guilty plea last week, admitting to accidentally packing the cartridges.

Griner’s legal team said in a statement that it hopes the judge will consider her decision to accept full responsibility for her actions ahead of sentencing.

Wade coached at UMMC Ekaterinburg, Griner’s Russian club, in 2017-2018. He won a Euroleague title with Griner in 2018. Griner led the Russian club to four Euroleague titles (2016, 2018, 2019, 2021) in her eight years with the team.

Wade talked specifically about Griner’s teammate Evgeniya Belyakova and UMMC general manager Maxim Ryabkov, who were character witnesses for her.

“It’s one thing to hear [support] from us, all the way over here,” Wade said. “To hear it from Russian citizens and people of UMMC — how great of a person she is and how much she means to that community — sometimes it may feel like it’s on deaf ears, but she’s really that great of a person.

“I was proud that you had Russian people in the Russian language expressing how great she is. Hopefully, that falls on the judge’s ears and everybody there to understand. Especially in this political climate that everybody is talking about and is there, they had the courage to actually speak up and go to bat for her. She’s meant a lot not only to us but to them, as well.”

Griner is expected back in court Friday. ESPN’s T.J. Quinn reported that the judge is expected to interrogate her.

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