The days of having two WNBA MVPs on one roster are over for the Washington Mystics. It technically spanned two seasons but only saw Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles play one game together.
Now, Tina Charles will take herself elsewhere for the 2022 season by signing with the Phoenix Mercury. The deal is team-friendly at $108,000 for one season, per Rachel Galligan of Winsidr.
Charles showed in 2021 that she is still playing at an elite level. In many respects, 2021 was the best individual season of her career. She was named to an All-WNBA team for the ninth time in 11 seasons by making the Second Team. She also was the league's leading scorer with 23.4 points per game, the sixth-best mark in the 25 years of the WNBA and the best of her career.
Returning to the Mystics simply wasn't in the cards with the free-agent class Washington was looking to sign and the $180,000 one-year deal she previously had. Myisha Hines-Allen was testing the market for the first time as a restricted free agent and more than deserved a significant pay raise.
Plus with Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, Alysha Clark and Ariel Atkins commanding 55% of the team's cap space, there wasn't much room to add another max-contract player to fill out an 11-player roster. However, Charles took a pay cut with Phoenix from what she could have earned elsewhere. As the dust is starting to settle from the 2022 free agency period, the Mercury, who made the WNBA Finals last season, appear to be in a position to get there again.
Charles made it clear last season that the one accomplishment she had left on her bucket list was winning a championship. That is why she chose the Mystics after New York agreed to part with her. At the season's end, she said that pursuing a WNBA title was still her goal and her offseason decision would reflect that.
After signing Elizabeth Williams, the Washington Post reported the Mystics were no longer seeking a deal with Charles.
In his free agency press conference, head coach and general manager Mike Thibault juxtapositioned Emma Meesseman and Hines-Allen as the team's top free agency choices without mentioning Charles.
"There was never going to be enough salary cap room to sign everybody back on our team," Thibault said. "We knew that, we've known that for some time. We looked at our roster and decided what our priorities were. And I think what we have today here is a result of that."
"Actually Myisha and I talked about if there was a way to figure out how to get her and Emma together on this team and we both were trying to figure out a way to do that," Thibault continued later in his press conference. "And as it turned out I mean, Emma made her own decision for us [to sign with Chicago]. I think all of us here would have liked to have found a way to do that, but it didn't happen."
In fact, not once did Thibault mention Charles in the hour-long presser.
The former 2012 MVP was traded to D.C. from her hometown team of New York before the 2020 season. The now 33-year-old helped initiate the trade to get her on the then-defending champions. Washington parted with Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, their 2020 & 2021 first round draft picks and two additional picks in exchange.
It set up the potential for a roster with three MVPs (Delle Donne, Charles and the 2019 WNBA Finals MVP). It turns out that through the coronavirus pandemic, injuries and international obligations, they never played together on the court.