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Home SPORTS WNBA Playoffs 2022: Tina Charles finds the perfect fit with Seattle Storm

WNBA Playoffs 2022: Tina Charles finds the perfect fit with Seattle Storm

LAS VEGAS — Tina Charles didn’t hesitate. When asked if a WNBA championship feels like a “must have” or a really nice addition to an already Hall of Fame career, the Seattle Storm center’s response was immediate.

“I think that would be the icing on the cake,” he said.

Charles was sitting in a mostly quiet Michelob Ultra Arena the day before Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces. Charles turns 34 in December, but she looks ageless on the court. He was a key part of two undefeated national champion teams at UConn in 2009 and 2010, is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA MVP in 2012. Just last season, while with the Washington Mystics, he led the WNBA in scoring with 23.4 points per game.

Of course he wants to win a WNBA title. But she’s not going to make or break the way she feels about herself or her career. She said that’s not why she left the Phoenix Mercury in June and then signed with Seattle. And that’s the part of her story that she thinks the media, including ESPN, got wrong.

“For me, success was about making the decision to come here,” said Charles. “He said a lot about me as a woman, even more than me as a player, in terms of what I’m going to stand for. If a championship doesn’t happen, it doesn’t take anything away from the player I’ve become.” , or what I’ve learned, or the experiences.

Charles excelled in the series opener on Sunday, notching a franchise playoff record with 18 rebounds to go with 13 points as the No. 4-seeded Storm beat top seeded aces 76-73. His divorce contract from Phoenix, the team he joined as a free agent in February, has been in the rearview mirror for two months, and he really doesn’t want to discuss it again now. His mind is focused on the storm.

What she will say about leaving Phoenix is ​​that it wasn’t about needing to make more shots or wanting a bigger role in the offense. She wasn’t about going out and chasing a championship. Charles doesn’t specify what happened in Phoenix, but she says her departure was due to taking care of herself and upholding the standards she believes players should have.

“It’s a business, and if we don’t keep our cut, they cut us off,” Charles said. “I think that for future generations, I hope I have let them know the importance of being in a good work environment and a good culture. The importance of a coaching staff and how they prepare, and be accountable to the teammates around you. .

“I want to thrive in the right environment at this point in my career, at 13 years old. A lot of other players would have maybe had time to settle in and see what the outcome was. I, at 33 years old, knew what my goal was and also it’s important to know what process you want to follow to reach that goal.”

Charles came to the Storm with one specific thing in mind: fill the role that Seattle needed. The Storm have Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird as key players on their 2018 and 2020 champion teams. But with another player from those squads, center Mercedes Russell, sidelined most of this season with pain syndrome recurring head, ricochets were a problem. And who better than Charles, who has averaged 9.3 rebounds in his career, to help fix it?

“He’s been very professional,” Seattle coach Noelle Quinn said. “She came in with the mentality of ‘I’m willing to do whatever you ask of me,’ and that was a great starting point. It was an understanding between both parties: She wanted to go in and win.”

Charles played his first game for the Storm on June 29, when he had four points and five rebounds in a win over Las Vegas. As of July 5, he has scored in double figures in nine straight games. He finished the regular season averaging 12.6 points and 7.4 rebounds in 18 games with the Storm.

In a first-round sweep against the Mystics team he played for last year, Charles had a combined 21 points and 12 rebounds. Then, in the first match of the semi-final, his rebounding helped set the tone early on.

“Going into this game, what I knew I could control was just being on the boards, watching their trends,” Charles said after Game 1. “I took it personally.”

In Seattle, Charles is now teammates with Bird, Stewart and Gabby Williams, all UConn graduates. Bird, Charles and Stewart are also all New York State natives and have been Olympic teammates, along with Loyd. All of that helped Charles transition to Seattle.

“From day 1 of her arrival, it would be about getting Tina comfortable playing our style and finding ways to fit in,” Bird said. “And at the same time we feel comfortable with the type of player who can really dominate in the low block. So as time went on, it was only going to get better. Comfort is everything when you talk about a team game.”

Charles said that if it seems like it’s been a smooth and easy transition, that’s somewhat misleading. It has taken a lot of work.

“What I’ve been able to do here is adapt, and I’m grateful to be able to show that I can adapt,” said Charles. “I’m proud to be a New Yorker, and that’s what we do: we adapt to our surroundings, we keep moving and we keep our heads up. Regardless of what people’s opinions or what they throw at you. But, yeah, when I was doing my decision to leave Phoenix, I knew there was a potential space to land, that Seattle could be a good fit.

Stewart said he has benefited from having another great body and fellow MVP inside.

“Having played a lot of USA Basketball together, we’re used to each other’s games,” Stewart said. “But usually that’s a week or 10 days or a little longer with the Olympics. Now we have Tina with Storm, and we’re seeing how she is off the court, how amazing she is as a human being. Her personality and competitiveness are so strong, and she’s really trying to help us as a team and just being there for everyone.”

Charles said his game has adapted over the years, another thing he brings to Seattle.

“I’ve always liked to challenge myself,” she said. “And most of the time when I work out, it’s not after work out. I do on-call stuff, I just know how to help spread the floor and I realize as you get older, you’re not going to be as quick or fast , but I can still be so clever and smart in trying to take advantage of the opportunities that I have.

“I’ve always been a confident person and player. I’ll never tell myself I can’t do something. That’s just the routine that I put in that people don’t see, taking that time to be able to get on and off the court.”

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