NEW YORK (AP) Tina Charles just wanted to come home and play alongside Cappie Pondexter at Madison Square Garden.
The New York native was traded Monday night to the Liberty from Connecticut for Kelsey Bone, Alyssa Thomas and next year’s first round pick in a blockbuster deal.
”The opportunity to be in New York is a dream come true,” said Charles in a conference call Tuesday. ”My mom always took me to the Liberty games, I’d see Rebecca Lobo, Becky Hammon, (Teresa) Weatherspoon before games. This is a big dream to play at the Garden.”
The 2012 league MVP gives the Liberty a solid post presence to go along with All-Star guard Pondexter. Charles, who is from Queens, averaged 18.0 points and 10.1 rebounds last season.
She played for Connecticut in college and faced Pondexter, who played for rival Rutgers, often in Big East competition.
”It’s going to be exciting playing alongside Cappie,” Charles said. ”I remember playing against her, she was always the voice in the huddle after a foul. … She was always the leader out there.”
Charles said coming to New York gives her the best chance to win a title after falling short with the Sun.
”My decision to leave the Sun was based on winning and being in New York,” she said. ”Coach (Bill) Laimbeer and New York is headed in the right direction to win a championship in the near future.”
The Sun executives said Monday night that their perennial All-Star had threatened not to play if she wasn’t traded.
”I did absolutely consider sitting out,” Charles said. ”Connecticut has great parts and players, but the bigger picture was coach Laimbeer and Cappie and the New York Liberty and the opportunity they presented.”
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 WNBA draft, Charles is entering her fifth season in the league. She was the unanimous rookie of the year in 2010 after posting the best first season in WNBA history with a league-record 22 double-doubles. Charles established a WNBA record with 398 rebounds and set the rookie mark for the most boards in a game (23).
”Acquiring Tina is one of the cornerstones of this franchise moving forward,” said Laimbeer, the Liberty coach and general manager. ”She’s a scorer and rebounder and wants to win very badly in front of her family and friends.
”She’s going to be here for a long time, it’s a great marriage. It cements a piece of your team for a long period of time and you look how to build around that piece.”
Charles gives the Liberty another marquee player when they return to the Garden this summer. The Liberty spent the last three seasons in New Jersey while MSG was renovated.
”Being in Newark was a detriment to the franchise,” Laimbeer said. ”Now we’re going back to the Garden. It’s a great opportunity to move forward. We got to go out and acquire Tina. Now the pressure’s on. The pressure’s on me to build a team quickly.”
Charles understands the pressure that comes with playing in New York.
”New York doesn’t have any patience and neither do I,” Charles said.
In a league that’s often devoid of blockbuster trades, the Liberty have been at the center of the last two, acquiring Pondexter in 2010 and now Charles.
”When I came in last year to the Liberty, it was clear we needed another marquee player,” said Laimbeer, a former Detroit Piston. ”Stars win in this league, stars win in the NBA.”
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