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Tina Charles: Former WNBA MVP leaves Phoenix Mercury after just 18 games

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Tina Charles in action during her short-lived stay with the Phoenix Mercury
Image: Tina Charles in action during her short-lived stay with the Phoenix Mercury

Tina Charles has left the Phoenix Mercury after just 18 games, the team announced on Saturday.

"After discussions with Tina and her agent, it was best for both parties to go our separate ways at this time," Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said. "Due to circumstances both in and out of our control, our season has not gone according to our plan, and we will continue to pursue all avenues for improvement.

The WNBA's leading scorer last season, Charles signed with Phoenix in February, a day after the Mercury added Diamond DeShields in a three-team trade with Chicago and New York. The additions were expected to give the Mercury a huge boost to a roster that already had Diana Taurasi, Britney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith.

Griner has been detained in Russia since February 17 after authorities at an airport outside of Moscow said she had vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her bag.

ESPN reported Charles' divorce from the Mercury has been on the cards for most of the season. The 2021 WNBA expected to be used in a more active role in the wake of Griner's absence but believes she wasn't given the opportunity to do so, even with the team struggling with injuries. Charles averaged only 14.8 field goal attempts per game in the 16 games she played for Phoenix, the fewest since her rookie season in 2010. Her 17.3 points per game this season was her second-lowest average since 2015 and she feels that was down to not getting enough shots.

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Highlights of the WNBA fixture between the Phoenix Mercury and the Dallas Wings

According to the report, Charles spoke frequently about her desire to be traded, cut or divorced from her contract. She got her wish on Saturday as the Mercury, now 7-12 after Saturday's victory over the Dallas Wings, decided to cut its losses.

Before signing with the Mercury, Charles had reportedly zeroed in on Seattle and Phoenix before plumping for the latter. Once Charles clears waivers, which she is expected to with every team in the league unable to afford her pre-divorce contract, she can become an unrestricted free agent. She can then sign with the Storm, or other teams, that has cap space to give her at least a prorated minimum salary.

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Charles, the 2012 WNBA MVP, was Phoenix's second-leading scorer at 17.3 points per game while grabbing 7.3 rebounds.

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