WNBA 2022 Qualifiers – Tina Charles finds shape with Seattle Storm

Las vigas — Tina Charles did not hesitate. When asked if the WNBA Championship seemed “a must-do” or a really cool addition to an already Hall of Fame-worthy career, Seattle Storm The center’s response was immediate.

“I think it would be icing on the cake,” she said.

Charles was seated in the mostly quiet Michelope Arena the day before the first game of the WNBA semi-final against Las Vegas Aces. Charles turns 34 in December, but she seems ever so ageless on court. She was a key part of the two undefeated UConn National Championship teams in 2009 and 2010, and is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and 2012 WNBA MVP. Only last season, while he was with Sophia Washingtonled the WNBA in scoring 23.4 PPG.

Of course you want to win the WNBA title. But it won’t make or break the way she feels about herself or her career. She said it wasn’t a reason to leave her Phoenix Mercury In June then signed with Seattle. And that’s the part of her story that thinks the media, including ESPN, got it wrong.

“For me, success was all about making the decision to come here,” Charles said. “It has said a lot more about me as a woman, than about me as a player, in terms of what I will represent. If the tournament doesn’t happen, it won’t take anything from the player I’ve become, what I’ve learned, or the experiences.”

Charles took a big lead in Sunday’s series opening, taking 18 rebounds, along with 13 points, as the No. 4 seed beat the No. 1 seed 76-73. Her divorce from Phoenix, the team she joined as a free agent in February, is two months in the rearview mirror, and she doesn’t really want to re-franchise now. Her mind focuses on the storm.

What you’ll say about leaving Phoenix is ​​that it’s not about needing to get more shots or wanting to play a bigger role in the attack. It wasn’t about leaving to chase the championship. Charles did not specify what happened in Phoenix, but says her departure was about taking care of herself and maintaining the standards she believes players need.

“It’s work, and if we don’t stick to our end, we get cut,” Charles said. “I think for the sake of 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 coaching staff and how they are prepared, and being accountable to your teammates around you.

“I want to thrive in the right environment at this point in my career, 13 years ago. A lot of other players would probably have had time to settle in and see the outcome of that. I was 33, I just knew what my goal was and it is also important to know the process that You want to fight it out to achieve that goal.”

Charles came by storm with one thing in mind: fill the role Seattle needs. her storm Brianna StewartAnd the Joel Lloyd And the So Bird As key players from the 2018 and 2020 championship teams, but with another player from those teams, center mercedes contact, who has been sidelined for most of this season by recurrent headache syndrome, rebound has been a problem. And who better than Charles, who has averaged 9.3 rebounds in her career, to help fix it?

“She was very professional,” said Seattle coach Noel Quinn. “She came with the mentality, ‘I’m willing to do whatever you ask,’ and that was a great start. It was an understanding between the two parties: She wanted to go in and win.”

Charles played her first game with the Storm on June 29, when she earned four points and five rebounds in a win over Las Vegas. Starting July 5, she scored in double digits in nine consecutive games. She finished the regular season averaging 12.6 points and 7.4 rebounds in 18 games with the Storm.

In the first round against the Mystics I played last year, Charles had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Then in the semi-final opener, her rebound helped set the tone right from the start.

“Coming into this game, the thing I knew I could control was just being on the boards, observing their inclinations,” Charles said after the first game.

In Seattle, Charles is now a teammate of Bird, Stewart and Gabe Williams, all UConn alumni. Bird, Charles, and Stewart are also New York State natives, and were teammates on the Olympic team, along with Lloyd. It all helped Charles move to Seattle.

“From day one of her arrival, it was all about Tina being comfortable playing our style and finding her ways to cope,” Bird said. “And at the same time we feel comfortable with the kind of player who can really control the low mass. So over time, it would only get better. Comfort is everything when you’re talking about a team game.”

Charles said that if it looked like an easy, smooth transition, it was somewhat disingenuous. It required a lot of work.

“What I have been able to do here is adapt, and I am grateful to be able to show my ability to adapt,” Charles said. “I’m proud to be a New Yorker, and that’s what we do: We adapt to our surroundings, keep moving and keep our heads up. No matter what people think or whatever else is thrown at you. But, yeah, when I was making my decision to leave Phoenix, I knew that There is a potential landing space – that Seattle could be a good fit.”

Stewart said she had the benefit of having another big body and fellow MVP inside.

“We played a lot of NBA together, and we got used to each other’s matches,” Stewart said. “But usually, it’s a week or 10 days or a little longer with the Olympics. Now we have Tina with a storm, and we see how off the court she is, she’s the amazing human. Her personality and her competitiveness is so strong, and she’s really trying to help us as a team and to be there for everybody “.

Charles said her game has adapted over the years, which is another thing she brings to Seattle.

“I’ve always loved challenging myself,” she said. “And most of the time when I’m working out, it’s not after exercise. I’m doing guard stuff—just knowing how to help flat the floor, realizing as you get older, you’re not going to be too fast or too fast. But I can still be skillful and smart to try Take advantage of the opportunities I have.

“I’ve always been a confident person and player. I would never tell myself I couldn’t do something. It’s the only thing I put myself through that people don’t see, and I used this time to be able to go out and do on court.”

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