LOS ANGELES — Liz Cambage quietly ran onto the field complaining Saturday as she played against her former team, the Las Vegas Aces, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Her sentencing stems from not receiving enough contact from her Los Angeles Sparks teammates, which sources close to the team say was normal behavior for the four-time All-Star of the WNBA.
Teammates couldn’t help but recognize Cambage’s displeasure and in return, out of annoyance, they began to force-feed him the ball regardless of what play was supposed to be played, sources say. After the Sparks’ embarrassing 84-66 loss, Cambage rushed to the locker room to dress for an early exit from the arena after finishing with 11 points and five boards in 22 minutes. Before leaving the locker room, she had a message for her teammates:
“I can’t do this anymore. Good luck to you guys,” she said before storming off, according to sources with knowledge of her departure.
Her teammates were shocked by the timing, sources say, but not by the end result.
On Monday, the Sparks announced they had agreed to a “contractual divorce.” with Cambage, ending his only season after 25 games with the organization.
Cambage could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Cambage had a conflict in the WNBA long before stopping in Los Angeles
The 6-foot-8 star was the franchise’s most prized offseason acquisition when he signed as a free agent in February. She personally negotiated her one-year, $170,000 contract after parting ways with her longtime agent, Allison Galer.
The Sparks have had two top players in recent years, Candace Parker for the Chicago Sky and Chelsea Gray for the Aces. The addition of Cambage brought to life a potential championship window with another dominant big in mind, similar to Lisa Leslie and Parker during the Sparks glory days.
Cambage came with baggage.
She fought her way from the Tulsa Shock in 2013, the team that drafted her with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft. Tulsa retained her rights and later became the Dallas Wings. From 2013 to 2018 she performed overseas. Cambage requested a trade from the Wings in 2019, a year after signing a multi-year contract.
And ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Cambage – an Australian citizen and member of the Australian national team – reportedly referred to Nigerian national team players as “monkeys” during training camp. She pulled out weeks before the tournament, citing mental health issues.
The ‘monkey’ remark shouldn’t have come easy for Sparks veterans – Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike – who are Nigerian-born sisters and are actively appealing FIBA’s denial of their bid to play for the club. Nigerian national team.
Derek Fisher, the Sparks’ head coach and general manager until his firing in June, brought Cambage to Los Angeles.
Several players on the team felt the center could help the Sparks if she was focused and committed, but they raised concerns that she is known to be a player others don’t like to play with , said sources.
Despite these reservations, Fisher took center stage.
Sparks players take issue with team’s handling of Cambage and other club issues
Before the 2022 WNBA season kicked off, things had already started well.
Cambage asked to wear number 8, but the Sparks informed her the number would be retired to honor DeLisha Milton-Jones, sources say. So she asked for number 1, but that number belonged to striker Amanda Zahui B.
According to sources, Fisher approached Zahui B. to give Cambage the number and she politely declined, explaining that the number meant a lot to her. Cambage still wanted the number. Time passed and sources say management eventually called to give the number to the new starting center.
Zahui B. learned that his number was given out via social media, sources say.
This approach has ruffled feathers in the locker room, sources say.
In an unrelated move, the Sparks would suspend Zahui B. for the 2022 season. According to a team source, Fisher opined that her overseas commitment would have forced her to miss up to the first 13 games and that the team needed to finalize its roster before the regular season. A suspended player receives no salary this season and the team retains the player’s rights.
Over the past few years, Sparks players have complained about a lack of leadership, delegation and accountability from superiors.
During movie sessions, sources say it was customary for Cambage to call out her teammates, accusing them of staring at her in the distance and not targeting her. Her teammates would reply that she does not seal the position and rarely comes back in defense in the event of a turnover. It was a riddle that has not been solved.
An ongoing team grievance is the club’s training venue.
The Sparks practice at the Jump Beyond Sports complex for most of the season, and it has been described as the league’s worst practice facility, sources say. Fisher and staff picked the spot ahead of the season much to the dismay of most players, sources say.
“An AAU team wouldn’t want to play there,” one player said.
Fisher did not respond to text questions from Yahoo Sports.
This month, the Sparks held workouts at USC and Crypto.com Arena.
What’s next for Liz Cambage?
Cambage was posting his lowest stats since his rookie season, averaging 13 points and 6.4 rebounds. She was not elected for the all-star game in Chicago. Cambage was spotted in Las Vegas during the height of the NBA Summer League and later tested positive for COVID-19. She missed two games before returning to play July 21 against Atlanta and Saturday against the Aces. These would be his last games for the Sparks.
Where does Cambage go from here?
There are currently no interested WNBA teams, sources say. Some believe Cambage will use the time off to focus on her modeling and deejaying career, skills that would be admirable.
A lingering question from WNBA players across the league about Cambage: “If she can’t succeed in a locker room full of real veteran pros, where can she succeed?”