When the Phoenix Mercury went to Dallas on Saturday for a matchup with the Wings, reports came in that Tina Charles had not made the trip with the team. A short time later, it became clear that the veteran forward would never be rejoining the Mercury.
Early on Saturday afternoon, the Mercury announced that the team and Charles had come to an agreement on a contract divorce effective immediately.
"After discussions with Tina and her agent, it was best for both parties to go our separate ways at this time," Mercury GM Jim Pitman said in a press release. "Due to circumstances both in and out of our control, our season has not gone according to plan, and we will continue to pursue all avenues for development."
Further details surrounding Charles' departure are unclear at this time. Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard declined to go into specifics during her pre-game press conference.
"It's best for both parties," Nygaard said. "We're ready to move forward."
However, Nygaard did note that Charles "elected not to play" in multiple games earlier this season, which indicates this move didn't come out of nowhere.
Charles signed with the Mercury as a free agent in February, agreeing to a one-year deal in an effort to chase a championship -- something still missing from her Hall of Fame resume. In addition to signing Charles, the Mercury traded for Diamond DeShields as they went all in for what could be Diana Taurasi's final season.
But when Brittney Griner was detained in Russia on alleged drug charges in mid-February, it sent a shock through the team and the league. Griner remains in Russia indefinitely, and the Mercury have understandably never looked quite right this season. They were 6-12 heading into Saturday's matchup, which had them outside of playoff position.
When Charles was on the floor for the Mercury this season, she was productive on an individual level, averaging 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds on 44.1 percent shooting from the field. This was obviously not the situation she was expecting to join, but again it's not clear exactly why the two sides decided to split.
The Mercury owe their 2023 first-round pick to the Chicago Sky via the DeShields trade, so they have no option but to forge ahead and try to turn things around in the second half of the season. Even if they had a reason to tank, Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith wouldn't let that happen. They obviously won't be able to replace Charles' talent, but they could benefit from better locker room vibes given how far the situation had deteriorated.
As for Charles, she is expected to join the Seattle Storm once she clears waivers in 48 hours, according to Em Adler of The Next. Charles would certainly give the Storm a big boost from an offensive standpoint -- something the team has desperately needed at times this season, especially when multiple starters are off the floor. However, she would also be a clear drag on the elite defense they've built.
If Charles is happy playing a bench role to help juice the offense at times, she will be a helpful addition. But if she's expecting to start and take minutes away from Ezi Magbegor, the move might not be worthwhile for the Storm.