Tina Charles jumps from Mercury to Storm
Supercars are in trouble in 2022. Tina Charles’s “divorce deal” with the Phoenix Mercury is the kind of clean, drama-free breakaway with a vehement superteam that Kyrie Irving can only dream of. Charles, 34, was in the late stages of her infancy and was reportedly very frustrated with her role on Mercury, so the team decided to release her. Reportedly, Charles will sign with Seattle Storm once she removes the waivers.
The official line from Charles’ camp is that Charles is unhappy with her usage in Phoenix. However, that seemed like a smokescreen for her desire to play on a contender. This season, Charles is averaging 17.3 points with 53.0% real shots, 7.3 rebounds and using 25.9% of the team’s assets.
She’s eighth in the WNBA in utilization rate and ninth in points sharing the court with Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Charles is the 2021 goalscoring champion on the Mystics team that has been without Elena Della Donne in all but three games.
After turning down Storm to sign Mercury in February, Charles’ 2022 season quickly became a mirror image of 2021, when Brittney Griner was imprisoned in Russia. Charles was responsible for the defense and without the Griner in the paint, Mercury struggled to compensate.
Mercury, as one would expect, was not pleased about Charles jumping ship. During the Mercury’s 83-72 win over the Dallas Wings on Saturday, guard Sophie Cunningham eloquently expressed the team’s feelings towards their former teammate.
The disappointment from Phoenix is understandable. After signing Charles, Phoenix was arguably the most complete team in the WNBA. Instead, Mercury 7-12 was passed through the extractor. Arguably their best player has been imprisoned in Russia for months and there seems to be no immediate release for her. Griner’s imprisonment and the negotiations surrounding her release after the Russo-Ukrainian war weighed heavily on the WNBA, but especially on the shoulders of the team she spent her career on.
We saw cracks in the facade when Diggins-Smith and Taurasi entangled in a shouting match in mid-May during the first half against Las Vegas. Mercury could still regroup after parts where they had to make a playoff spot, however, their actual championship aspirations may not come to fruition.
On the other hand, Charles’ arrival in Seattle elevated Storm to the WNBA’s superior position. Charles is a title-hunting mercenary on a one-year contract. She’s accomplished everything in the WNBA besides winning a title. In Seattle, she will provide another scoring punch alongside former league MVPs Breanna Stewart and Jewell Lloyd. Another former MVP, Sue Bird, remains the main distributor, who is chasing her fifth title to end her final season.
The Las Vegas Aces and Chicago Sky appear poised for a rematch in the Finals, but Charles’ addition is likely to put Seattle in the driver’s seat. The Aces have been leading for most of this season until the Sky caught them sleeping in a 28-point comeback. Now both of them had to keep an eye on the Storm catching them from behind.