Did the WNBA Knock Its Biggest Star Out of the All-Star Game Starting Lineup 'Cause of Her DUI Arrest?

There's no question about it: the Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi's the face of the Women's National Basketball Association. A college standout at UConn and an Olympic champion, she's the biggest women's basketball player of all time. Not in physical stature (she a 6-foot guard), but in talent and fan appreciation.

Take a look at the number of votes she had from fans for the July 25 league All-Star Game as of July 2 -- 32,959, the most of any player. Seattle Storm star guard Sue Bird, for example, had 10,559 votes. 

But Taurasi (above) won't start in the big game, and there's rampant speculation that it's because the league's punishing her for her DUI arrest by Phoenix police in the wee hours of July 2. The Mercury issued its punishment yesterday by suspending Taurasi without pay for two games.

Here's the evidence getting cited of league manipulation of fan voting:

Once the voting was concluded, San Antonio's Becky Hammon led among Western Conference guards with 88,991 votes, Bird was second with 88,591, and Taurasi third with 75,263.

How could this happen? She goes from first overall to third in the West for guards. Okay, she got a DUI, but would the WNBA rig the voting because of a star's unsavory arrest? Come on, are we expected to believe the tiny city of San Antonio could get that many votes out for Hammon over the world-famous Taurasi?

There's other speculation that her lower vote total came 'cause she's considered by certain opponents to be a dirty player, but since when did that make a professional athlete unpopular with fans? Infamy gets you everywhere in the pros.

Taurasi was pulled over for speeding by Phoenix police at 2:30 a.m., just after she'd scored 22 points in a 93-81 win against the Storm. Irnonically, she was on her way from a Scottsdale nightclub to The Phoenician, where several Storm players were staying. She's BFF with a couple of Seattle players. 

"Tenacious Dee," as we called her in our cover story on the WNBA superstar, then failed a field-sobriety test and was taken to a mobile DUI van, where she was given a blood test. She registered 0.17, more than twice the legal limit in most states. She was charged with extreme DUI.

Clearly the lady was partying after her team's victory, and she says in a team press release that she's sorry (as are so many when they get caught):

"I am deeply...embarrassed for causing this distraction for my teammates, the Phoenix Mercury, the WNBA, family and fans. While I cannot say more with regards to the specifics of the case, I do want to make sure that everyone knows how much I appreciate their support and that I've learned a valuable lesson. I am committed to making sure a lot of good comes from this experience."   

She'll miss tomorrow night's game with the Detroit Shock and Wednesday's game with the the Minnesota Lynx.

The WNBA All-Star Game's at Uncasville, Conn., not far from New York City. Reserves have been selected by coaches and will be announced Monday.

If Taurasi's not on this list, we'll be positive that the league's enforcing some G-rated code of conduct for professional players.

Wonder if Sheriff Joe Arpaio will give her the star treatment he's given to several local celebs and let her stay in the posh, so-called Mesa Hilton jail, rather in outdoor Tent City? If she later hosts a fundraiser for the geezer, we'll know the fix was in.

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Rick Barrs
Contact: Rick Barrs