Did you hear the one about the math teacher and chemistry teacher who walked into the Storm’s locker room? The first one thinks Seattle just formed a super team. The other one isn’t so sure.
It was announced Tuesday that the Storm — winners of two of the past four WNBA championships — added reigning WNBA scoring champion Tina Charles for the remainder of the season after Charles and the Phoenix Mercury agreed on a “contract divorce.” Seattle now has four former No. 1 overall draft picks — Charles, Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd — on its roster, two of whom (Stewart and Charles) have won league MVP awards.
The math teacher loves this. He sees Charles’ eight All-Star appearances adding to the combined 21 among Stewart, Bird and Loyd. He sees the center’s 17.3 points per game (ninth in the WNBA) and 7.3 rebounds (12th) bolstering a Storm squad that is 11-7 and in second place in the Western Conference.
He doesn’t think this is a 33-year-old simply looking for her first WNBA championship in the twilight of her career — he sees this is a stratospheric signee who scored 23.4 points per game for the Mystics last season and will anchor one of the most dynamic, dominant frontcourts in the WNBA.
A borderline dynasty adding a superstar? How can Seattle not be the favorite for the WNBA title now? It’s simple math!
But the chemistry teacher isn’t so sure. She did a little digging on Charles and has a few concerns. First, according to ESPN, Charles was upset with being limited to 14.8 shots per game with the Mercury — especially because Phoenix has been playing without the Russian-detained Brittney Griner. This is part of the reason the breakup between her and the Mercury was in the making for most of the season, per that same ESPN report.
It didn’t seem as if Charles’ teammates were too thrilled with her attitude, either — at least not Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham, who reportedly yelled “(Expletive!) Tina Charles!” (the expletive rhymes with duck) after Phoenix’s victory over Dallas on Saturday.
Here’s the thing: Stewart, a front-runner for her second WNBA MVP, takes 16.3 shots per game for the Storm. Loyd takes 14.8 — the exact number Charles supposedly felt limited by. And there is 22-year-old center Ezi Magbegor, who is averaging 12.6 points for Seattle on 54.1% shooting — which is 10 percentage points better than Charles this season.
If one were to take ego out of the equation, Charles’ services might be best utilized by bringing her off the bench behind Stewart and Magbegor. But it’s tough to remove ego from the equation when Charles has started all 373 WNBA games she has played. In fact, according to ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss, Charles chose the Mercury over the Storm in free agency last offseason due to a dispute over how Seattle planned to use her.
So color the chemistry teacher skeptical.
On Tuesday, Charles addressed the Seattle media for the first time since signing with the Storm. As is the case with most introductory news conferences, she said all the things the proverbial PR script would advise.
On why she wanted to join the Storm: “I have a small window, and there’s a way that I want to play with the time I have left playing. There’s a way I want to be coached. And just knowing about the culture here, having a good relationship with Sue (Bird), it made it really easy.”
On whether she’d be willing to sacrifice shots and minutes and possibly come off the bench: “I’m open to it all. Obviously coming here, I knew what I was coming into, I knew what opportunities would be presented with me, and I’m very fortunate to have played with (Storm guard) Epiphanny Prince (in New York), including Jewell and Stewie and Sue (on the U.S. Olympic team) and with those four it’s always been a joy.”
On why she wasn’t happy in Phoenix: “I’m moving forward, and I’m staying present. And those who are involved we all know respectfully, professionally, and this isn’t the platform to explain it here.”
Perhaps it wasn’t the platform. But by offering no explanation, she lends credence to the reports of why she was discontented.
If Charles is willing to be used in a manner that best complements the Storm, they could win championship No. 5 while solidifying Tina as an all-time great. But solidification is an act of chemistry — something Charles must preserve on her new team.