Tina Charles left Mercury for Storm to ‘thrive in the right environment’

Tina Charles split with the Mercury in June and signed with the Storm soon afterward. (David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images)

Tina Charles isn’t saying much about her midseason exit from the Phoenix Mercury, but the Seattle Storm center told ESPN that the June contract divorce came down to taking care of herself.

“It’s a business, and if we don’t hold up our end, we get cut,” she told ESPN. “I think for future generations, I hope I’ve allowed them to know the importance of being in a good working environment and a good culture. The importance of a coaching staff and how they prepare, and being accountable to teammates that are around you.”

While Charles said she is focused on the Storm’s playoff run, the 2012 WNBA MVP maintains that she did not leave Phoenix to chase a championship. Seattle holds a 1-0 lead on the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA semifinals, with the next game in the series set for 10 p.m. ET Wednesday.

Rather, her departure from Phoenix speaks to the high standards she expects as a player.

“It said a lot about me as a woman, more even than me as a player, in terms of what I am going to stand for,” she said. “If a championship doesn’t happen, it doesn’t take away anything from the player I became, or what I’ve learned, or the experiences.”

Charles, the league’s leading scorer last season, joined the Mercury as a free agent in the offseason. But by June, the relationship had soured. The two sides agreed to a contract divorce and a few days later she was signed by Seattle.

She played her first game with the Storm on June 29. Then, starting July 5, she scored in double digits in nine straight games.

“She’s been very professional,” Seattle coach Noelle Quinn said. “She came with a mindset of, ‘I’m willing to do whatever you ask,’ and that was a great starting block.”

According to Charles, the transition has taken a lot of work and and a lot of adaptation. But she’s enjoyed the challenge.

“I want to thrive in the right environment at this point in my career, being 13 years in,” she said. “A lot of players maybe would have had time to settle in and see what the outcome of that was. Me being 33, I just knew what my goal was and it’s also important to know what process you want to go through to attain that goal.”

Her presence has provided a boost for teammates as well, with Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird commending her ability to settle in.

“Now we have Tina with the Storm, and are seeing how she is off the court, the amazing human she is,” said Stewart, who led the league in scoring this season. “Her personality and competitiveness are so strong, and she’s really trying to help us as a team and just being there for everybody.”