Phoenix Mercury, former WNBA MVP Tina Charles part after 18 games

Former MVP Tina Charles and Phoenix Mercury have parted ways in a surprise development for last season’s runner-up WNBA team.

The Mercury announced Saturday that the franchise and Charles had agreed to an immediate divorce.

“Following discussions with Tina and her agent, it was best for both parties to go their separate ways at this point,” said Jim Pitman, Mercury general manager. “Due to circumstances both within and beyond our control, our season has not gone according to plan and we will continue to pursue any opportunities for improvement.”

Phoenix coach Vanessa Nygaard declined to discuss the reasons for the split but said it was “best for both sides” and the team is “ready to move forward.”

Charles has to sort out waivers about what’s expected of her as neither team seems to have the salary cap space to pick up her contract before the divorce. Once cleared, she can become an unrestricted free agent and sign with a team that has caps to give her at least a minimum prorated salary.

One team that can do that is Seattle, who are credited as the front runners for Charles. The Storm has three of Charles’ US Olympic teammates in Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart – both also UConn grads – and Jewell Loyd.

Storm coach Noelle Quinn declined to comment on Saturday when asked about Charles’ potential addition.

Nygaard said ahead of Saturday’s game at the Dallas Wings that the Mercury will try to play more small balls without Charles, adding that she hopes the team can quickly find new players to fill the roster.

“The players are very focused and not happy with the way we’re playing, so they’re ready,” Nygaard said of the Mercury, who came into the game with a 6-12 record on Saturday night. “This is an extremely competitive group. When it gets like that, they just want to win. And so we had one of our most focused shootouts we’ve had all year and I know they will do it.” look forward to playing tonight.”

Charles, 33, averaged 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds for the 6-12 Mercury, who has been without center Brittney Griner all season as she is imprisoned in Russia. The Mercury also struggled with various injuries and illnesses in their first season under coach Vanessa Nygaard. Under coach Sandy Brondello, they reached the WNBA Finals last season.

The Mercury signed Charles to a one-year deal in February for $108,000. Charles was the WNBA’s top scorer in 2021 after averaging 23.4 points while playing for the Washington Mystics. She did not play in the league during the 2020 COVID-19 blistering season in Bradenton, Fla.

Charles, the No. 1 draft pick in 2010, played with the Connecticut Sun from 2010-13 and the New York Liberty from 2014-19. 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.

ESPN’s Alexa Philippou contributed to this report. Phoenix Mercury, former WNBA MVP Tina Charles part after 18 games

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