LAS VEGAS — Tina Charles did not hesitate. Requested if a WNBA championship seems like a “must-have” or a very nice addition to an already Corridor of Fame-worthy profession, the Seattle Storm heart’s reply was rapid.
“I feel it will be icing on the cake,” she mentioned.
Charles was sitting in a largely quiet Michelob Extremely Enviornment the day earlier than Recreation 1 of the WNBA semifinals in opposition to the Las Vegas Aces. Charles turns 34 in December, however she seems to be ageless on the court docket. She was a key a part of two undefeated nationwide championship groups at UConn in 2009 and 2010, is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and the 2012 WNBA MVP. Simply final season, whereas with the Washington Mystics, she led the WNBA in scoring at 23.4 PPG.
After all she desires to win a WNBA title. Nevertheless it’s not going to make or break the best way she feels about herself or her profession. She mentioned it is not why she left the Phoenix Mercury in June after which signed with Seattle. And that is the a part of her story she believes the media, ESPN included, obtained flawed.
“To me, success was about making the choice to return right here,” Charles mentioned. “It mentioned so much about me as a girl, extra even than me as a participant, by way of what I’m going to face for. If a championship does not occur, it does not take away something from the participant I turned, or what I’ve discovered, or the experiences.”
Charles got here up large within the sequence opener Sunday, getting a franchise playoff-record 18 rebounds, together with 13 factors, because the No. 4 seed Storm beat the top-seeded Aces 76-73. Her contract divorce from Phoenix, the staff she joined as a free agent in February, is 2 months within the rearview mirror, and he or she does not actually wish to re-hash it now. Her thoughts is targeted on the Storm.
What she’s going to say about leaving Phoenix is that it wasn’t about needing to get extra photographs or wanting a much bigger function within the offense. It wasn’t about leaving to chase after a championship. Charles does not specify what occurred in Phoenix, however says her departure was about taking good care of herself and sustaining requirements she thinks gamers have to have.
“It is a enterprise, and if we do not maintain up our finish, we get minimize,” Charles mentioned. “I feel for future generations, I hope I’ve allowed them to know the significance of being in a superb working setting and a superb tradition. The significance of a training workers and the way they put together, and being accountable to teammates which might be round you.
“I wish to thrive in the appropriate setting at this level in my profession, being 13 years in. A variety of different gamers perhaps would have had time to settle in and see what the end result of that was. Me being 33, I simply knew what my aim was and it is also necessary to know what course of you wish to undergo to achieve that aim.”
Charles got here to the Storm with one particular factor in thoughts: Fill the function Seattle wanted. The Storm have Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Hen as key gamers from their 2018 and 2020 championship groups. However with one other participant from these squads, heart Mercedes Russell, sidelined most of this season with recurrent headache syndrome, rebounding was a problem. And who higher than Charles, who has averaged 9.3 rebounds in her profession, to assist repair it?
“She’s been very skilled,” Seattle coach Noelle Quinn mentioned. “She got here with a mindset of, ‘I am prepared to do no matter you ask,’ and that was an important beginning block. It was an understanding on each events: She wished to return in and win.”
Charles performed her first recreation with the Storm on June 29, when she had 4 factors and 5 rebounds in a victory over Las Vegas. Beginning July 5, she scored in double figures in 9 consecutive video games. She completed the common season averaging 12.6 factors and seven.4 rebounds in 18 video games with the Storm.
In a first-round sweep in opposition to the Mystics staff that she performed for final 12 months, Charles had a mixed 21 factors and 12 rebounds. Then within the semifinal opener, her rebounding helped set the tone from the start.
“Coming into this recreation, the factor I knew I may management was simply being on the boards, watching their tendencies,” Charles mentioned after Recreation 1. “I took it private.”
In Seattle, Charles is now teammates with Hen, Stewart and Gabby Williams, all UConn graduates. Hen, Charles and Stewart are additionally all natives of New York state, and so they have been Olympic teammates, together with Loyd. All of it helped Charles’ transition to Seattle.
“From Day 1 of her arriving, it was going to be about Tina getting snug enjoying our fashion and discovering her methods to slot in,” Hen mentioned. “And us concurrently being snug with the kind of participant who can actually dominate on the low block. So over the course of time, it was solely going to get higher. Consolation is all the pieces if you’re speaking a few staff recreation.”
Charles mentioned if it seems to be as if it has been a simple, seamless transition, that is considerably deceiving. It has taken plenty of work.
“What I have been in a position to do right here is adapt, and I am grateful to have the ability to present I can adapt,” Charles mentioned. “I take delight in being a New Yorker, and that is what we do: We adapt to our environment, preserve transferring and preserve our heads up. No matter individuals’s opinions or what else is thrown at you. However, sure, after I was making my determination on leaving Phoenix, I knew there was a possible touchdown area — that Seattle might be a superb match.”
Stewart mentioned she has benefited from having one other huge physique and fellow MVP inside.
“Us having performed plenty of USA Basketball collectively, we’re used to one another’s video games,” Stewart mentioned. “However often, that is per week or 10 days or somewhat longer with the Olympics. Now we now have Tina with the Storm, and are seeing how she is off the court docket, the superb human she is. Her persona and competitiveness are so sturdy, and he or she’s actually making an attempt to assist us as a staff and simply being there for everyone.”
Charles mentioned her recreation has tailored through the years, one other factor she brings to Seattle.
“I’ve all the time beloved difficult myself,” she mentioned. “And more often than not after I’m doing a exercise, it is not a submit exercise. I am doing guard issues — simply realizing the way to assist unfold the ground, and realizing as you become older, you are not going to be as quick or fast. However I can nonetheless be as skillful and good in making an attempt to benefit from the alternatives that I’ve.
“I’ve all the time been a assured particular person and participant. I am by no means going to say to myself that I can not do one thing. That is simply the grind that I put in that individuals do not see, placing in that point to have the ability to come out and do in on the court docket.”