By Joseph Staszewski
Tina Charles has played at Madison Square Garden before, but not for one of MSG’s resident teams.
There was the storied Super Six game with Christ the King back in the 2006, the Maggie Dixon Classic with UConn in 2008 and most recently her games as part of a visiting Connecticut Sun.
Taking the court at the World’s Most Famous Area in her first regular season game for the New York Liberty had a much different feel.
“Now it is just more permanent,” Charles said.
The former WNBA Most Valuable Player would have liked a better ending to her New York debut as the Liberty fell 79-65 to the Chicago Sky Saturday night. The St. Albans native scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but she did not score a point in the fourth quarter, when the Liberty watched the game get away from them, thanks to a 15-4 run by Chicago.
“I feel like my presence needs to be more felt,” Charles said. “There were times and possessions where I was really hesitant, and that’s not really like me.”
Charles got a warm ovation from the crowd, which included a large contingent of Christ the King students and staff as well as New York Knicks players, during introductions. Her first hoop was a transition layup off a pass from DeLisha Milton-Jones in the game’s opening minute. But the Sky (1-1) started double teaming Charles after she got off to a fast start.
Liberty Coach and former Detroit Pistons star Bill Laimbeer thought Charles didn’t react quickly enough to the defensive pressure, making it more effective in stopping her. He’d like to see Charles continue to be a post presence and push out to the perimeter less for the Liberty (1-1).
“We have to do a better job of working with Tina to catch the ball and go to work right away,” Laimbeer said. “She’s a solid, quality post player. I think she ventured out a little bit too much today from what we need from her. We want her to be more of an inside presence than a moving out on the perimeter presence.”
Charles and her teammates are still getting acquainted with each other after a short training camp. It’s a chemistry that will come with time. All-Star guard Cappie Pondexter is happy to have Charles on her side to take away some of the pressure.
“She’s a great player,” Pondexter said. “When you have another great player alongside yourself, it’s a great feeling. We just have to get acclimated with each other.”
One familiar face wasn’t able to attend Charles’ debut at the Garden. Epiphanny Prince, her former high school and college rival at Murry Bergtraum and Rutgers, is reportedly taking some time away from the Sky because she is burned out from her year-round playing schedule. Competing against her is something Charles missed.
“You always look forward to playing against great players,” she said. “They really raise your game.”
She is hoping to do that the rest of the season and in the future for the Liberty at her new home of Madison Square Garden.
“I’m going to look forward to playing many years here,” Charles said.