Members of the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks were ecstatic that WNBA star Brittney Griner was released fromK;leber a Russian prison on Thursday and was therefore back in the United States.

Griner had been wrongfully detained at an airport in Russia back in February for having cannabis oil and vape canisters in her possession. The former Baylor All-American and two-time Olympic gold medalist was eventually convicted and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison and was subsequently transferred to a penal colony.

“Going through her trial, detention, and her being sent to the penal colony, it sounds like something out of a movie,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said. “But for her to be really going through it, it’s unbelievable how strong she’s been through all this.

“The whole thing did seem surreal to an extent, but it seems surreal when they said she finally got released and she was coming back home.”

The plane Griner rode in landed in San Antonio, and she was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center for treatment, which is standard procedure for someone in her situation.

“To see her get off that plane, it was definitely a great moment,” Lopez said. “It definitely made me happy.

“I can’t imagine how happy her loved ones, her family and her teammates are feeling right now.”

Mavs coach Jason Kidd is also happy that Griner is back with her family.

Kidd“I think that’s great that she’s back home,” Kidd said. “It took some time — the process — as much as we wanted her home sooner.

“But that just shows how the government works and they got something done. So we’re all happy that she’s back home.”

Bucks forward Khris Middleton noted that mostly everyone in America was in Griner’s corner, praying for her release. He also said he hopes her recovery will be seamless.

“I pray for her,” Middleton said. “I hope she’s doing alright. I know she’s been through a lot this last year.

“It pretty much seems like an impossible situation to get out of. Somehow she got out, so I’m definitely happy for her and I hope she’s on the road to recovery because I know she’s been through a lot over this last year.”

In order for Griner to regain her freedom, the United States had to give the Russian government Viktor Bout, one of the world’s most dangerous arms dealers and an ex-Soviet Army lieutenant colonel who was extradited to this country in 2010 after he was arrested in Thailand in 2008.

With the Russia-Ukraine war still going on, Mavs forward Davis Bertans wishes there could have been a better set of circumstances to get Griner home. But he completely understands the prisoner swap.

“Definitely knowing how that country (of Russia) is, it’s great that she’s home,” said Bertans, who is from Latvia. “From my side, knowing a guy like that was released for her, it’s definitely not great knowing that the war is going on.

“It would have been a best-case scenario probably if she was getting home under different circumstances and swapping with somebody else that’s maybe not as high up there and one of the worst people in the world.”

Griner’s release, meanwhile, has become a fresh of breath air cascading across the sports landscape.

“Obviously, it’s a great day for the sports world and things like that,” Bucks forward Bobby Portis said. “I’m happy to see her home. It’s beenDavis since February or March since she’s been home, since we’ve been able to see her and her being able to be around her family and to be back on U.S. soil again.

“Obviously, we’re appreciative of that. I don’t know what it feels like to be in jail for not even 24 hours — especially in another country.”

Mavs center Maxi Kleber said the extraordinary situation Griner found herself in is unimaginable to conceive.

“Unless you’re put into that situation it’s really hard to understand what a person has to go through during that time,” Kleber said. “I think the strength that you have to have to get through this is just incredible.

“That’s why I say it’s so much more beautiful that she’s able to be back with friends and family now.”

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer concurred.

“I’m very, very happy for Brittney Griner (and) her family,” he said. “It’s a great thing for her (and) for our country.

“I know it’s not easy for anybody, but for Brittney and her family, (I) couldn’t be happier and hope that anybody who’s in a similar situation can be brought home and not be put through what she and others are going through in a similar situation.”

Griner was in Russia basically to play basketball and supplement her income. She signed a three-year, $664,544 with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury prior to the 2020-21 season, which averages out to $221,515 for one of the game’s brightest stars.

By contrast, Griner has earned over $1 million per year while playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the last seven seasons. Meanwhile, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James has earned over $1 billion as an active player during his 19-year career.

DALLAS, TX – DECEMBER 9: The Milwaukee vs the Dallas Mavericks on December 9, 2022 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Monica Borja/Dallas Mavericks Photography)

“Obviously, those women play basketball year-round,” Portis said. “Once the WNBA season is over they make most of their money playing in foreign countries. Obviously, I think it’s been a big magnifying glass over the WNBA over the last decade about how women should get paid more. Those women are special as well.

“They can do different things with the basketball, they are gifted. I think they need to be paid the right way. Maybe them and the owners split something 50/50 — however their (collective bargaining agreement) is built. They definitely shouldn’t be going to Russia and all these other countries where they don’t even know how to speak that language.”

James has made over $385 million in NBA salary during his illustrious career and will make $44.5 million this season. The desire to earn more was the reason Griner was in Russia in the first place.

“I don’t have too much information how the numbers work and what to put together to do it better,” Kleber said, referring to how to increase pay for WNBA players. “But everybody supporting everybody is the first step, and then talk about it.”

Middleton chimed in and said: “There’s a lot of different things that go into that, but I definitely am a believer in definitely supporting that women’s pay should be more than what it is.

“They’re definitely underpaid, so you see them have to go to alternate revenue to bring income in for their families. So hopefully over the years everybody, including myself, can put in work to help support so they don’t have to do things like that that we (NBA players) are not forced to do.”

In the meantime, Lopez is just thrilled that Griner – a native of Houston — is back in the comforts of her country and among family and friends.

“Obviously, it’s great to see,” Lopez said. “It’s unconscionable, unimaginable that something like that could happen. It doesn’t seem that something like that could happen, but it did happen.

“I can’t imagine going through that, so you have to credit her perseverance, her strength through that whole thing (and) her family strength. It is the best feeling to see her finally come home.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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