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Can the Sparks win without Liz Cambage?

The 6’9 center wanted out of L.A. and the franchise obliged. Could this work for the better?

Can the Sparks win without Liz Cambage?

Liz Cambage walked into Los Angeles, the city she’d wanted to live in and play for since joining the WNBA more than a decade ago, with high hopes and a proclamation that the Sparks would be WNBA champions

Two months later, her team’s head coach, Derek Fisher, was ousted. Six weeks after that, Cambage, by request, left the team via contract divorce. Yikes!!

 

What happened?

A singular moment isn’t immediately known, but Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes laid out a lot of details that add up. 

Per his reporting, Cambage often complained about a lack of post touches to the point where, on Saturday, her teammates began throwing her the ball no matter what play was drawn. After a blowout 18-point loss, Cambage allegedly left the locker room saying “I can’t do this anymore. Best of luck to you guys.”

There was also a report that came out in May from The Daily Telegraph, an Australian news outlet, which said that during an exhibition game against Nigeria, Cambage was heard telling her opponents to “go back to your third-world country,” calling them “monkeys.” Two of her Sparks teammates, Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, are of Nigerian descent. Cambage has denied these claims. 

 

Will Cambage play for another team this season?

It doesn’t sound like it. Per Haynes, no team has interest in signing her at this point.

 

Can the Sparks still compete without her?

The 6-foot-9 center was playing well by a regular players’ standards, but for an All-Star, she underperformed this season scoring 13 points per game with 6.4 rebounds 2.1 assists and 1.6 blocks per game. Her scoring and rebounding numbers were the lowest of her career since her rookie season, and it was fair to question her effort level at times.

Without her, L.A. gets smaller, but that’s where it might thrive — especially with the way Nneka Ogwumike is playing. The undersized big is pouring in 18.6 points per game on 56.5% shooting with 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.9 steals. She’s in the MVP conversation — again. 

With the success the Mercury have seen sliding a spot-up shooter in Sophie Cunningham to the four-spot, it’ll be interesting to see if coach Fred Williams mixes Katie Lou Samuelson or Jasmine Walker into a similar role. It’s time to see All-Star-caliber guard Chennedy Carter get some more play, too.

The Sparks might not have the pieces to win it all, but they do have enough to clinch a playoff spot, though it won’t be easy. Three games separate them at No. 6 from the Minnesota Lynx at No. 11. The top eight teams make the playoffs and L.A. has nine games left to play.

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