“I love playing against the best players. That’s when you can see where you are in your game,” relished Charles. “I look forward to Nneka (Ogwumike of Los Angeles), Elena tonight. I look forward to guarding (A’ja Wilson) on (Sunday).”
For example, given room to pop or roll to the hoop, Charles capitalizes:
Playing Charles at the 5 would give New York other advantages. Rebecca Allen — who is currently out with a hand injury — could shift to the 4, where her weaknesses as a perimeter defenders would be negated and strengths as a shooter, maximized. Plus, it would allow them keep their best perimeter shot-creators (Nurse, Durr, and Bria Hartley) and three-point shooters on at the same time (Nurse and Durr). Flanking Charles with shooters is crucial:
There is another way Charles can be used as a 5, one that could subtract her massive usage without taking away from her dominance: using her as a screener in a pick-and-roll, mainly with Durr or Nurse. In the below clip, Durr’s pull-up ability gives Charles an open three-pointer:
When she pivots and keeps her head up, she completes nice “skip-passes”:
At some point, Tina things becomes an overused phrase, one indicative of not the star player’s luster, but, rather, their team’s lack thereof. If any improvement does manifest, Liberty fans hope it comes from someone other than Tina Charles. Kia Nurse and Asia Durr were primed to be the most likely candidates, yet neither of them realized their off-season promise. For now, then, the Liberty have to maximize Charles in any way possible.
Still, New York Liberty may not have immediate time to experiment, with two games against the 4-2 Lynx, and a game each against the 3-2 Sparks and 2-3 Aces (both of whom are title favorites). Even their easiest game slates them against the 3-2 Chicago Sky, who have been a pleasant surprise.
But Katie Smith may not have a choice; New York is short of options. Asia Durr was given a DNP last game while dealing with an illness, plus EuroBasket is coming up shortly, which leaves Bria Hartley and Amanda Zahui B out of the mix (playing for Australia and Sweden, respectively). Unless Han Xu or Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe earn rotation minutes, though, Zahui B’s absence should open up minutes for Charles at the 5. Aside from Sylvia Fowles, the Lynx lack centers. Staggering Charles as a 5 (in spurts) against them should work.
To be fair, Charles needs to return the favor, specifically with deft passing out of post-ups. She’s already a top-five player in the league, and on track to earn more than a few MVP votes. Any improvement would help. If everything falls into place, Tina things can become more than a buzzword.