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  • Erica Blackburn

Tina Charles out of the line-up due to an injury she suffered Sunday

WNBA's leading scorer and Mystics center Tina Charles was ruled out for the next three-to-five games, the team announced on Thursday. Charles suffered a strained left gluteal strain in Washington's 85-78 Sunday loss to the Storm.

Charles leads the league in points per game with 25.4, almost five ppg higher than the league's second leading scorer in Brittany Griner (20.4). After sitting out the 2020 season, Charles has kept the Mystics afloat while the carousel of healthy players continued to churn in the first half of the season. It’s a big loss for a team still trying to get all their frontcourt players together for once.

“I think she’s a better player by a fair amount than when she played for me in Connecticut when she was the MVP,” said head coach Mike Thibault. “I think it’s attributable to a couple of things: No. 1, she came to our training camp this year in probably the best shape I’ve had of any player coming in, so I think she brought a kind of chip on her shoulder to our team right off the bat.

“The one thing that clearly everyone sees is that she has expanded her offensive game,” Thibault said. “Obviously she’s always been a great low-post player, but she is shooting the 3 at a high rate, shooting four or five a night, and this has expanded her game and made her more dangerous to try to defend.”

Charles also has returned to being a dominant rebounder. “I thought that was one area of her game that had kind of gotten away from her a little bit, partly because when you’re out away from the basket and playing on the perimeter more, you’re maybe not as effective an offensive rebounder,” Thibault said. “But she has found her way to kind of get that back into her game.”

Not only is it a loss offensively, but defensively as well. Thibault believes she’s playing at the peak of her powers prior to the injury. “As a team defensive player and a help defender she’s been really good in a lot of ways,” he said. “I think that has brought a dimension to our team that we really needed. We are still a long way from being what we’re supposed to be defensively, but she has upped that level for us particularly as she’s gotten more familiar with our team.”

Washington remains in 10th place and only a game and a half out of the eighth and final spot with nine games to go.

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