It is a brutally hot Thursday morning, the kind of summer swelter that feels as if a damp washcloth is covering one’s face.
The macadam at the Liberty’s practice facility seems to shimmer, the waves of heat rising up like an apparition from perdition.
Tina Charles, about 90 minutes before the team is scheduled to practice, is getting in some extra running, rivulets of sweat race down her face as she nods to a visitor.
If you wonder, how one becomes an All-Star, that’s the hard part.
Yes, it takes talent, but that will only get an athlete so far at the highest level. To become an All-Star – a starter no less – takes the rare combination of talent and relentless work that Charles brings to the game.
Which is why Charles will be making her fifth All-Star game appearance and her third start in eight WNBA seasons, the league announced today. The game is Saturday, July 22 (3:30 p.m.; ABC) in Seattle’s KeyArena.
“No player in the WNBA works harder or means more to their team than Tina Charles, and I congratulate her on being voted a starter for the All-Star game,” said Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer, who will coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars in Seattle.
“She is the most consistent player in the league, turning in close to a double-double every time she steps on the court, and has taken her game to another level this season as she leads our team every night.”
Charles is third in the league in scoring (20.8 points per game) and third in rebounding (9.1 boards per game). She’s led the Liberty to an 8-8 record, just one and one-half games behind the Connecticut Sun for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Charles averaged 18 points and 10.5 rebounds in 2012 when she won league MVP honors. Her performance in the first half of the season has put Charles firmly in contention for another MVP award.
“I am honored to have been voted as a starter for the WNBA All-Star game for the 3rd time in my career,” Charles said. “I am grateful to all of the fans, media, and my peers in the WNBA who voted. I am excited to represent the New York Liberty organization for what I know will be a great All-Star Weekend in Seattle.”
In addition to once again being the focal point of the Liberty’s offense, Charles has taken on the role of team leader this season. She has always possessed leadership skills, but last season the Liberty had Swin Cash and Tanisha Wright to handle most of the vocal leadership.
This season, Charles can be seen coaching teammates in practice and doling out instructions on the court. She is that rare leader who doesn’t demand anything out of teammates and coaches that she doesn’t demand of herself.
“Even before I made the team I was so thankful to have had a chance to be in the same locker room as Tina,’’ rookie Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe recently told MSGNetworks.com. “Watching how hard she works, how committed to her body and her game, pushes you to work harder.
“When the best player on the team is the first in the gym and the last to leave, not a lot else has to be said. You realize she is setting a standard and you don’t want to let her down.’’
The Liberty return to The Garden Friday (7:30 p.m.; MSG Network) when they take on the Chicago Sky. It is the first of three straight home games leading up to the All-Star break. New York is coming off a 12-day, four-game road trip, it’s longest since 2013.
The WNBA starters were selected in a vote of fans, players and the media. Charles finished second in the fan vote for the Eastern Conference, first in the player vote and tied for first in the media vote.
After scoring a career-high 36 points in a 93-89 win over the Dallas Wings on June 3, Charles was asked about being in consideration for MVP. The Queens native made quick work of the conversation.
“I don’t dwell on MVP or All-Star or any that,’’ Charles said. “It’s an honor but that’s not why I play the game. I play to win and for the respect of my teammates and coaches. If they feel I’m doing my job, that’s what matters most.’’