After clearing waivers on Monday, former MVP Tina Charles signed a deal Tuesday for the remainder of the WNBA season with the Seattle Storm.
Charles, who had signed with the Phoenix Mercury as a free agent in February, agreed to part ways with the team on Saturday by reducing the salary she was owed with a contract divorce. When her original salary of a reported $108,000 went through waivers unclaimed, it cleared the way for Charles to join the Storm as an unrestricted free agent.
“We are excited to add one of the premier players in our league to our roster,” Storm head coach Noelle Quinn said in the team’s press release. “Tina is a prolific scorer who brings veteran experience and adds depth to our front court. We look forward to seeing the immediate impact she can make for our team.”
Before signing with the Mercury, Charles had narrowed her choices to Seattle and Phoenix, a source told ESPN, but a disagreement between the sides in how Charles would be used by the Storm led her to choose Phoenix.
A source said that Charles’ divorce from the Mercury had been in the making for most of the season. She had been unhappy with her role in the offense, which included a desire for more shots, for some time.
Charles expected to be used in a more active role in the wake of center Brittney Griner’s absence this season but felt like she wasn’t given the opportunity, a source said. She averaged 14.8 field goal attempts per game in the 16 games she played for Phoenix, the fewest since her rookie season in 2010. Her 17.3 points per game this season was her second-lowest average since 2015.
It’s unclear whether Charles will find more opportunity in Seattle. Storm forward Breanna Stewart leads the WNBA by scoring 22.0 points per game, while guard Jewell Loyd averages as many shots per game (14.8) as Charles. However, Seattle (fourth in the WNBA at 11-7) offers her a more realistic opportunity to win a first championship than the Mercury, a disappointing 6-12 at the time Charles was waived.
Speaking before the deal was finalized, Stewart praised the leadership brought by Charles, who teamed with Stewart, Loyd and guard Sue Bird — all No. 1 overall picks — on the USA women’s national team that won gold at last year’s Olympics in Tokyo.
“Tina is the ultimate pro, a vet,” Stewart told ESPN.com. “The fact that she can provide depth, she can score from multiple positions all over the court and just her leadership. I think there’s a lot of intangibles in what she does off the court.”
Adding Charles could fortify Storm lineups that don’t include Stewart. According to WNBA Advanced Stats, Seattle has been outscored by 15.3 points per 100 possessions with Stewart on the bench — fifth-worst among players who have been off the court for at least 100 minutes this season. No Seattle reserve is averaging more than 4.9 PPG this season.
Charles was the WNBA’s scoring leader in 2021 after averaging 23.4 points per game while playing for the Washington Mystics. She didn’t play in the league in the 2020 COVID-19 bubble season in Bradenton, Florida.
The No. 1 draft pick in 2010, Charles played with the Connecticut Sun from 2010 to 2013 and with the New York Liberty from 2014 to 2019. She was the 2012 WNBA MVP and is an eight-time All-Star and three-time Olympic gold medalist. She won two NCAA titles at UConn but has not won a WNBA championship.