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WNBA players speak existence inside Russia was lucrative nevertheless lonely

WNBA players speak actuality inside Russia was lucrative nevertheless lonely

For the elite athletes inside the WNBA, spending the offseason playing inside Russia tin signify earning additional money than they tin build spine place of residence — occasionally flat place of set of two or trio times while much.

But those who have done that excessively report the loneliness of actuality away from family accompanied by every one one other accompanied by friends, of struggling accompanied by an unfamiliar language accompanied by every one one other accompanied by culture, accompanied by every one one other accompanied by of living inside a place accompanied by only a few hours of sunlight inside the winter accompanied by every one one other accompanied by temperatures well beneath freezing.

Brittney Griner is one of those players who went to Russia inside recent years to exist paid additional money. For the two-time Olympian, however, it has turned into a prolonged nightmare.

Since arriving at a Moscow airfield inside mid-February, she has been detained by police following they reported finding vape cartridges allegedly containing cannabis lubricant inside her luggage. Still inside jail, she is awaiting trial following month on charges that could convey up to 10 years inside prison.

Her arrest came at a hour dated of heightened political tensions over Ukraine. Since then, Russia has invaded Ukraine accompanied by every one one other accompanied by remains at war.

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A half-dozen American players contacted by The Associated Press shared their experiences on playing inside Russia. Although none found themselves inside the same circumstances while Griner, they described difficulties such while isolation accompanied by every one one other accompanied by boredom, apart from basketball.

"Playing there was not uncomplicated since the way of actuality accompanied by every one one other accompanied by the way of living is a a large amount different than what you experience inside other places inside Europe accompanied by every one one other accompanied by America," said DeLisha Milton-Jones, one of the earliest marquee American players to amuse oneself inside Russia inside the early 2000s.

"The extremes of the weather — it's pitch black black at 5 p.m. I had to exist dressed inside my large jacket warming up occasionally since it was minus-40 degrees outside," said Milton-Jones, who played for UMKC Ekaterinburg — the same team while Griner.

The former All-American at Florida, WNBA All-Star accompanied by every one one other accompanied by two-time WNBA champion accompanied by the Los Angeles Sparks said the decision to amuse oneself inside Russia was simply a "business one."

In the early 2000s, top WNBA players could exist paid concerning $125,000 a year while small part of a marketing deal accompanied by the league. Today, the pay for elite players is concerning $500,000. By playing inside Russia, those players tin exist paid another $1 million to $1.5 million.

Players speak the Russian teams try to build them while comfortable while possible, including occasionally providing drivers accompanied by every one one other accompanied by translators. The clubs excessively inside attendance accompanied by players additional days off all over breaks, knowing they have longer journey spine to the U.S., if they go home.

Apartments provided by the teams are comparable accompanied by what the players are accustomed to inside the WNBA, including Western-style kitchens accompanied by every one one other accompanied by laundry facilities, accompanied by every one one other accompanied by they excessively have access to streaming services accompanied by every one one other accompanied by video calls.

Milton-Jones, 47, played inside other European leagues nevertheless said Russia paid the most at the time. And none topped UMKC Ekaterinburg, which continues to exist an attractive destination for players.

Milton-Jones helped the club go nearer earliest inside its earliest EuroLeague title. The team's owner, Shabtai Kalmanovich, changed the standard of pay accompanied by every one one other accompanied by living for WNBA players inside Russia earlier to he was report accompanied by every one one other accompanied by killed inside Moscow inside 2009.

"We chartered. Did every one thing five-star," Milton-Jones said at USA Basketball training bivouac earlier this month. "He would fair mar us. He'd dispatch us to France for a weekend accompanied by every one one other accompanied by inside attendance accompanied by us thousands of dollars to go shopping on a private plane. No matter the club, you didn't know where the money was coming from accompanied by every one one other accompanied by you didn't care. You were there to do a job."

Sue Bird accompanied by every one one other accompanied by Diana Taurasi excessively spent numerous years playing inside Russia for Kalmanovich accompanied by every one one other accompanied by spoke of luxurious living conditions accompanied by every one one other accompanied by the lavish trips he would provide.

"Everything literally was first-class," Bird on one instance said. "We're staying at the finest hotels. We go to Paris. We're in, like, the bomb innmotel inside Paris."

That behaviour towards at Ekaterinburg continues.

"My experience inside Russia has been amazing, to exist honest," said Breanna Stewart, who has played for Ekaterinburg since 2020. "They build sure they lay clasp of protected from danger keeping of the players by chartering everywhere."

But Milton-Jones excessively remembers how different actuality was 20 years ago, when cellphones accompanied by every one one other accompanied by the internet were relatively new.

"Back inside the day, you had to go to the cig store accompanied by every one one other accompanied by buy the scratch-off cards accompanied by every one one other accompanied by you'd type that number inside the phone accompanied by every one one other accompanied by it says you have 25 minutes to talk," she said. "We didn't have the well liked apps nowadays on your phone. It was a struggle"

Connecticut Sun retain protected from danger Natisha Hiedeman, who spent this past hour dated inside Russia earlier to returning to place of residence inside March, said her done every one one day procedure consisted of going to the gym accompanied by every one one other accompanied by returning home. The only other place she went was the grocery store.

"It's fair challenging going not here when you can't communicate. Everything is 10 times harder," she said. "I stayed inside the house. I was fortunate that I had my canine not here there, (to) do stuff accompanied by him."

Hiedeman said actuality inside Russia felt additional isolating than playing inside Israel.

"In Israel, everyone was 20 minutes apart accompanied by every one one other accompanied by there were a whole bunch of Americans, so it was easier," she said. "Russia is a enormous country, accompanied by every one one other accompanied by to exist near some other team you had to obtain on a flat external outside accompanied by every one one other accompanied by travel."

Hiedeman stayed connected accompanied by her family into with every one other accompanied by not here of technology inside malice of the hour dated differences.

"I don't know how the elderly cats used to do it lacking FaceTime," she said, laughing.

Brianna Turner, a teammate of Griner accompanied by the Phoenix Mercury, excessively played inside Russia inside 2020-21. She competed for Nika Syktyvkar, a team based inside Russia's faraway European north.

Turner said Syktyvkar didn't have a shopping shopping precinct or numerous places to go, nevertheless it had a McDonald's — although she didn't go there often.

She regularly stayed at place of residence accompanied by every one one other accompanied by streamed movies accompanied by every one one other accompanied by shows on her computer. When her team went on the road, she'd try to pay not here some hour dated inside the shopping precinct inside those places.

"There wasn't a a large amount of to do outer external outside of basketball," she said.

"My city was extremely cold. When I earliest got there, the sol place at 3," said Turner, who is from South Bend, Indiana. "The weather was a large adjustment. It was flat colder. Wake up, accompanied by every one one other accompanied by it would exist negative 20 multiple days inside a row. It was chilly every one one single day."

WNBA players speak actuality inside Russia was lucrative nevertheless lonely

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