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7,000 career points and a promising superstar performance for Tina Charles

Tina Charles has arrived as a member of the Seattle Storm.

Atlanta Dream v Seattle Storm
Tina Charles
Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images

Tina Charles became the fourth player in WNBA history to reach 7,000 career points Sunday afternoon in Seattle, but more important to her in the present was the fact that her recent move the starting lineup yielded a promising 27-point, 15-rebound, four-block performance and led to an 82-72 Storm win over the Atlanta Dream that snapped a two-game skid.

Charles said postgame that she’ll think about milestones like 7,000 when her career is over and she’s looking back. Right now she just wants to win games, get a good playoff seed and win the first championship of her WNBA career.

In her first game in Seattle’s starting lineup, she had a solid 14-point, 11-rebound outing, but the Storm were upset by the Phoenix Mercury, 94-78. Sunday’s game, her second as a Storm starter, was far more successful as we saw the Tina Charles we saw in Washington, D.C. a year ago. A superstar.

Gone are the days when the Boston Celtics’ 2008 big three won a championship on its first try and the big threes of the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers also delivered on championships in 2011, 2012 and 2016 before the super team of the Golden State Warriors won it all in 2017 and 2018. The NBA’s two most recent super teams, the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers failed miserably this past season, perhaps making us cautious about super teams and the addition of Tina Charles to the Storm.

Having Charles come off the bench is a way to remain cautious and not disrupt Ezi Magbegor’s growth as a rising star and her chemistry with the rest of the starters. And a sixth woman can be very impactful — we saw Emma Meesseman win Finals MVP as a sixth woman. But the more conventional way to let a player reach their superstar potential is to start them and the Storm (18-10, fourth place) got to see what they would have been missing on Sunday.

Now, it was a win over a team with a losing record in the Dream and it was only by 10 points. And it was just one game. But it was another step in the right direction for the Tina Charles experiment.

“You see her ability to stretch the floor and give us a post dominance offensively, which is good,” Storm coach Noelle Quinn said of Charles’ performance. “And the 15 rebounds is something that we need consistently as a group. Though we didn’t win the rebounding battle, I thought that there were some rebounds that were key for us and we got to those and she’s a bit culprit of that.”

Charles seemed happy to have delivered her first signature Tina Charles performance to Storm fans and said she blocks out any negative perception of her break-up with Phoenix.

“I think you all are within your jobs because it’s just a great working environment, it’s a great culture and that’s why you’re with whatever company or whatever newspaper, whatever it is.

“For me personally, it was just to be in a great mental space, it was to be able to play with teammates that enjoy each other and a coaching staff that just wants to make their players better and just challenge them each and every single day. And I think I owe it to myself in my 13-year career to be a recipient of that as I’m getting ready to close out my career. These are the memories that I want to have.

“It was a tough decision to make. I know there’s a lot of things that people want to say about it. But I’m glad I took control of my career and what I felt was best for me and how I can help another organization and players around me get better.”

Her big game included a 4-of-7 effort from downtown, the four makes being one off her career high set in DC and Phoenix. Always a deadly mid-range shooter, Charles made just two threes over her first six years in the WNBA. She has since worked the three ball into her repertoire with a career-best 50 makes at a career-best 36.5 percent clip coming last year. This year she has 32 makes so far at 36.4 percent.

“I always say the grind goes unnoticed, but the results doesn’t,” Charles said when asked about the development of her 3-point shot. Her 7,000th point came on a triple. “I’m someone who loves being in the gym, loves challenging myself.

“When I look around this league and I see Stewie (Breanna Stewart) and I see JJ (Jonquel Jones) and you see A’ja (Wilson), I always look at my counterparts and what they're doing and how I can still be within their tier. We have great women that’s gonna lead this league in those three that I mentioned. And as long as I'm in the league, I’m just trying to hang around. So I knew I had to develop my game, be consistent from the 3-point range the older I got and I’m very thankful for my trainer and just the work and the effort that I put in in the offseason.”

Stewart co-starred with Charles with 23 points, 10 boards, four assists, two steals and three blocks. She still holds the league lead over Kelsey Plum of the Las Vegas Aces when it comes to points per game, though Plum followed up a nine-point performance with 29 on Saturday. Postgame, Stewart was excited about what Charles had done and the way that she, Charles and Magbegor had played together at times in Seattle’s new big lineup.

“It reminded me of USA basketball, because that’s where I played a lot of 3, especially with Tina. And we played zone majority of the game so to have our back line be that long is really tough on other teams. And then just making sure I have awareness — once you switch from 4 to 3, you want to make sure you’re running different lanes and not clogging up Ezi and Tina.”