Tina Charles played a huge role in Seattle taking Game 1 over Las Vegas, posting 13 points and a franchise-record 18 rebounds on Sunday.
The critical performance came two months after Charles signed with Seattle after she controversially left Phoenix following a contract divorce. The former two-time national champ admitted that leaving Phoenix wasn’t about her role on the offense but about “taking care of herself and maintaining standards she thinks players need to have.”
As a member of the Storm, the former MVP joined a lineup filled with extraordinary talents like Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, and Jewell Loyd. Surrounded by two-way scoring talent like that, all the eight-time All-Star decided to focus on was rebounding after Mercedes Russell went down with recurring headache syndrome.
“She’s been very professional,” Seattle Coach Noelle Quinn said, per ESPN. “She came with a mindset of, ‘I’m willing to do whatever you ask,’ and that was a great starting block. It was an understanding on both parties: She wanted to come in and win.”
Since joining Seattle, Charles has averaged 12.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game on 51.6 percent shooting from the field.
Charles’ presence in the paint and on the boards helped set the tone for Seattle against Washington and Game 1 against Las Vegas. Her familiarity with Bird, Stewart, and Gabby Williams as UConn grads or Team USA teammates also helped her transition into Seattle on and off the court. Stewart said it’s helped her game having another big body in the lineup.
Bird said the lineup meshed well because they focused on helping Charles get “comfortable playing our style and finding ways to fit her in.” Not to mention that Seattle is used to playing with a dominant center like Charles in her career.
“What I’ve been able to do here is adapt, and I’m thankful to be able to show I can adapt,” Charles said about the work it took to transition. “I take pride in being a New Yorker, and that’s what we do: We adapt to our surroundings, keep moving, and keep our heads up. Regardless of people’s opinions or what else is thrown at you. But, yes, when I was making my decision on leaving Phoenix, I knew there was a potential landing space — that Seattle could be a good fit.”
Charles also clarified that her game has evolved past being a dominant post player. She says she’s worked on other aspects of her game, like spreading the floor and utilizing her skills and basketball IQ to take advantage of whatever opportunities she has on the court.
Seattle will look to take a 2-0 lead and be one step closer after Wednesday’s Game 2.