The Liz Cambage experiment in Los Angeles has come to an abrupt end, with the Sparks announcing on Tuesday that they agreed to a “contract divorce,” effective immediately, with the four-time WNBA All-Star.
Cambage’s departure is just another chapter in the saga that has been the L.A. Sparks for the past several seasons.
The Australian center signed with the Sparks five months ago and was the team’s second-leading scorer through 26 games. Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports TV reports that “chemistry issues” between Cambage and the rest of the team emerged in May.
Some of those chemistry issues are speculated to date back to initial reports that Cambage used racial slurs against members of the Nigerian team during a training game ahead of the Olympics. Cambage, whose father is Nigerian, apologized to the Nigerian team, but some questioned the sincerity of the apology.
While the relationship between Cambage and the Australian team seemed to reach an all-time low, she lauded the Sparks organization for protecting her “on a level that the Opals or the Australian team never gave to me.”
Williams went on to say Cambage reportedly had been vocal about her intention to leave the team, with some characterizing her departure as a “quit.”
While undeniably talented, Cambage has earned a controversial reputation as an unreliable teammate dating back to her early days in the WNBA.
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After being drafted by the Tulsa Shock with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft, Cambage immediately expressed displeasure over starting her career in Tulsa.
“I don’t want to play in Tulsa, I’ve made that clear,” she said.
Her time in Tulsa proved short lived. With less than a month remaining in her rookie season with the Shock, Cambage missed her flight from Australia back to the U.S. and informed the Shock that she would sit out the remainder of the season, citing exhaustion and fatigue from playing on the national team circuit. She later rejoined the Shock in 2013, appearing in 21 games, before taking a four-season hiatus from the WNBA to play in China and Australia.
The dependability question continued to follow Cambage as she sat out the entirety of the 2020 season due to health concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and then backed out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics less than two weeks before the Games.
While the relationship obviously turned sour quickly, Cambage was seemingly all in from the onset.
“It was L.A. or out for me,” Cambage said in her introductory press conference back in February. “There was nowhere else I wanted to be.”
To be fair, Cambage isn’t the only source of controversy in the Sparks locker room these past couple seasons.
Former Laker Derek Fisher took over as head coach in 2018 and tensions quickly emerged between Fisher and Candace Parker, a seven-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer. Parker was reportedly upset about Fisher’s decision to bench her in his first year at the helm of the franchise.
Parker remained in Los Angeles for one more year before leaving the Golden State after 13 seasons and heading back home to join the Chicago Sky.
The Sparks are currently neck and neck with the Dallas Wings and Phoenix Mercury for the third place spot in the Western Conference standings. With the absence of Cambage, they’ll need other supporting players to step up if they hope to stay in the race for a playoff bid.