Tina Charles had a busy Tuesday, to say the least. The twelve-year veteran signed with the Seattle Storm for the remainder of the season, attended her first practice, and held a press conference to answer looming questions regarding her mid-season departure from Phoenix and what her signing means for Seattle’s championship aspirations.
On June 25, Charles agreed to a contract divorce with the Mercury, shockingly parting ways after what was a stellar statistical season for the vet. Charles’ numbers were impressive, averaging 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 16 games for Phoenix.
Head coach Vanessa Nygaard and the Mercury have been dealt a challenging season thus far—from managing the devastating loss of Brittney Griner due to her wrongful detainment in Russia, to handling issues surrounding Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith arguing on the bench during a game—culminating in a string of seven consecutive losses from May 17 to June 3.
In her first press conference with Seattle, Charles was diplomatic in sidestepping the issues that led to her departure from Phoenix.
— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) June 28, 2022
While, on paper, the addition certainly makes Seattle title favorites, you have to ask the question: Why now? Both the Storm and Charles mentioned they had been in talks prior to the season; so, what makes the weeks leading up to All-Star break the ideal time to make such an impactful move?
Tina mentioned only a few people know what happened in Phoenix, and that there would be another time and place to tell that story, before turning her focus on what brought her to Seattle.
“Coming here, I knew what I was coming into, I knew what opportunities would be presented to me. I’m very fortunate to have played with Epiphanny Prince, Jewell [Loyd], Stewie [Breanna Stewart], and Sue. And for me personally, it’s always been a joy, it’s always been fun; we were all able to be productive out there on the court, and then knowing them on a personal level helped with the decision on really locking in to do this.”
Charles comes with a long list of accolades during her distinguished career, including being an eight-time WNBA All-Star, 2012 WNBA MVP, and a three-time Olympic gold medalist, to name just a few. Charles also ranks fifth in league history with 6,889 career points, and second in career rebounds with 3,507.
Charles mentioned she has maintained her relationship with Taurasi, but that the human emotions of leaving a team have been a tough pill to swallow. “It was extremely hard because the decision that I made didn’t just impact my life but [also]those in Phoenix,” Charles said.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned over these last few days, life isn’t about what you accomplish but who you become. I’m becoming someone who has a standard, I’m becoming a woman that… I want what I want. For me, it’s just who I’m becoming along the way, and that’s the best thing about trying to attain a goal. It’s not about the goal; it’s who you become along the way, and that’s what I’m most proud of myself for right now.”
Elaborating on the scope of her decision, Charles said, “To be honest, to me this isn’t really a big thing when you’re looking in the world. When you look at what is going on in Ukraine, when you look at the overturning of Roe v Wade, when you look at where Brittney Griner is. I’m still able to do what I love… I’m just on another team. So that’s the way I look at it, to not make it as big as it. Yet I’m still human, and I think of those emotions of those I left behind in Phoenix. So that’s what stays with me.”
For Seattle, it took time to see its potential, as so many key members were missing multiple games with injury or covid symptoms. Seattle is formidable, that is undeniable, but it has so far appeared a step below the top tier teams like Las Vegas, Connecticut, and Chicago. Heading into Charles’ home opener tonight versus the league-leading Aces, the Storm are 1-3 against the league leaders.
Charles’ addition, regardless of how she is used in the lineup, puts an immediate offensive presence on the floor for a team who has been inconsistent scoring at times, especially with their second unit. With Charles, a current starter will have to move more towards playing minutes with the second unit, which should alleviate some of the Storm’s dry spells when they pull Loyd and Stewart off the floor for stretches.
The value Charles adds to this team catapults them right back into the championship mix, and, though she may be on the tail end of her career, Charles shows no signs of slowing down. When asked how much longer her “window” of playing would be, Charles said, “I’ll retire when I stop getting double- and triple-teamed. When people stop respecting me, that’s when I know it’s time to go.”
It needs restating that the Storm are relentlessly going all-in this year, due to what will most likely be heavy roster turnover in the future: Bird and Briann January will both be retiring at the conclusion of the season; Breanna Stewart will be an unrestricted free agent; and, Gabby Williams has signed a contract to play with Lyon-Asvel Féminin in France next year, which could see her opting out of next season.
All this to say—the Storm are going to look drastically different in 2023, and their priority is to win now. Will the addition of Tina Charles be enough to get this team back to the top of the WNBA?
Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of WNBA Stats and Storm PR.