For so long, boundless energy hindered Diana Taurasi.

Movies dragged on forever and made her feel antsy. Books bored her so thoroughly that she barely finished one before she turned 18

Restlessness, family members predicted, would ruin Taurasi. In middle school, she bounced on her bed until she smacked her head against the ceiling. She somersaulted recklessly down the halls of her Chino, Calif., home until her mother locked her in a bedroom -- not for punishment, but for containment.

"She could never sit still," said Lili Taurasi, Diana's mother. "She was just go, go, go. She could never find a place to put all her energy."

Until this season.

In her rookie year with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, Taurasi has discovered a lifestyle that fits her restless demeanor. Tonight, she'll play with the U.S. Olympic team against a group of WNBA all-stars at Radio City Music Hall at 7, marking her latest stop in a five-month whirlwind tour of activity.

In college, she won three consecutive national championships at the University of Connecticut, then was taken No. 1 in the WNBA draft, then attended two weeks of intense practice with the Olympic team, then started her first WNBA season. She leaves for Athens next week.

Taurasi's tirelessness is now her greatest asset. She's averaging 16.5 points and 3.6 assists, the highest numbers of any rookie, while marketing her league 24 hours a day.

"It's been a wild ride," Taurasi said. "I really haven't had a break for a long time, but that's the way I like it. When I'm not super busy, I just get bored."

That's fine with the Mercury, which has relied on Taurasi's vivacity to reinvigorate its franchise. Thanks in large part to Taurasi's spectacular play, the Mercury -- 8-26 last season -- is in playoff contention at 12-13 going into the WNBA's month-long break.

The 5-foot-11 guard has established herself as one of the league's premier three-point shooters, making about two each game. "If she's open, she makes it," said Mystics rookie Alana Beard. "She's really that automatic."

Phoenix has found Taurasi just as reliable before and after games, when the team expects her to cast aside basketball and cater to fans.

Before nearly every road game, Taurasi takes a break from warm-ups to give a speech to about 50 lucky fans. In Washington on Sunday, dozens of girls wearing Taurasi's No. 3 jersey shrieked when the WNBA star walked up to the bleachers to deliver a quick speech. They shrieked again shortly after the game, when Taurasi walked back into the arena and signed nearly 100 autographs.

"The Diana Taurasi following is pretty remarkable," said Seth Sulka, Phoenix's president of basketball operations. "It's unrivaled by anything I've even seen in this league. She's charismatic and she's caring, so that plays very well at a marketing level."

Phoenix leads the league in road-game attendance. The team's Web site gets more traffic than any other team. Taurasi's jersey is the league's No. 2 seller, behind Lisa Leslie's.

Taurasi's popularity has benefited the entire league. She joked about the WNBA at the ESPY Awards and at the NBA draft lottery, where she represented the Phoenix Suns.

"She's Michael Jordan elevating a league," Sulka said. "She's Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. She's Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa reinventing baseball.

"Pro sports are about stars and their abilities and personalities. She's got it all, and she's giving it all to the WNBA."

Even Sulka, though, expected Taurasi to be tired of giving by now. The Mercury has waited for Taurasi to crash, for her to ask for a few days off from glad-handing fans or talking to the media.

Recently, she's been plagued by a nagging hip-pointer, but Coach Carrie Graf still can't keep her off the court. Teammates politely suggested Taurasi take a night off against the Mystics and enjoy some much-needed rest earlier this month. Instead, she started the game and hobbled around the court for four minutes before conceding to the pain.

"No matter what," Taurasi said, "I always want to play."

After the Mercury played seven road games in 14 days at the beginning of July, Lili Taurasi called her daughter and begged her to slow down. "Take a break," Lili said. "You're going to run out of energy."

"No," Taurasi responded. "That's impossible."

"She just doesn't stop," Sulka said. "She bounces from one thing to another without ever slowing down. We'll take that energy and use it for all that it's worth."

TAURASI