So here’s what it comes down to. Tina Charles, a former rookie of the year and MVP for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, said Tuesday her decision to ask for a trade was fueled primarily by her urge to play closer to her birthplace, be close to her family and play [for a championship] in Madison Square Garden.
That is not a hard concept to understand. What’s harder is understanding what took her so long to tell the Sun and what caused the breakdown in communication that led to it.
“I don’t want to be a part of a team where names pop off of a page,” Charles said from Russia in a conference call. “I want to be with a team where our entire presence is felt. I know Bill Laimbeer [the Liberty coach] will allow that to happen.”
That tells me she was not happy with the direction the team was taking, even after it signed Katie Douglas and traded for Alex Bentley. This tells me she wanted to act right away before getting locked into a long-term deal with the Sun that would have made ever leaving practically impossible. It also tells me she wasn’t totally confident that Anne Donovan and Chris Sienko were going to able to change it, even though she has won a WNBA title and Olympic gold medal.
But that’s her opinion, right?
“And just being back at the Garden again reminds me of growing up in New York, going to Knicks and Liberty games and playing there in high school [with Christ the King]. The energy in the arena is amazing. The Garden speaks to you, brings the best out of you. It’s breathtaking. It’s emotional. It’s a blessing.”
Yep, I get it. I love MSG, too.
The bottom line is the Sun dealt their 2010 first overall pick, and one of the game’s premier stars, to the New York Liberty during Monday’s WNBA draft in return for Kelsey Bone, New York’s fourth overall pick (Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas) and a No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.
Charles cast no blame on anyone for her change of heart, although multiple sources have long said many veterans on last year’s team, for whatever reasons, tuned Donovan out. I guess they did. The team subsequently finished last in the standings.
Charles said she eventually told the Sun if she was not traded she would not have played for them this summer, following a trend now increasing in vogue with WNBA stars intent on resting their bodies for more lucrative professional opportunities overseas.
“We were hoping Tina would want to be a part of that future,” Donovan said. “We had no indication until late March that she didn’t want her to play here. We did not drive the trade. New York drove the trade.”
Charles, 25, said she has been happy during her four-year career with the Sun, during which she set club and league rebounding records.
“I enjoyed the things the organization was able to provide me off the court,” Charles said. “But everything is not always going to be perfect. Connecticut has some great players, but I just looked at the big picture.”
That picture included playing close to her home and with Cappie Pondexter, the Liberty’s star guard and a long-time friend.
“I am looking forward to not needing to get on I-95 to get back home [from Connecticut] on my days off,” Charles said. “I’m looking forward to seeing my mother and father all the day – and when I want to.”