Arguably the final domino of the WNBA’s offseason has dropped…and we are ready to begin the regular season next week.
After months and months and months of speculation about if Liz Cambage would even play in the WNBA this season, the Dallas Wings and Las Vegas Aces finally completed a trade that sends Cambage to Las Vegas.
In exchange, Dallas gets Isabelle Harrison and Moriah Jefferson along with a pair of draft picks from Las Vegas. In addition, the Wings did a separate deal with the Atlanta Dream where they acquired Imani McGee-Stafford.
— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) May 16, 2019
Thank you, Moriah! pic.twitter.com/3R9GrEmajE
— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) May 16, 2019
Thank you, Izzy! pic.twitter.com/qkhGBXE16E
— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) May 16, 2019
— Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) May 16, 2019
As many have pointed out…Las Vegas was already projected to be a top-tier team in the league before this deal. With this deal, Bill Laimbeer’s Aces have the potential to compete for a WNBA championship – in only their second season since relocating to the City of Sin from San Antonio.
2019 WNBA Championship winner updated
Aces regular season win total goes from 20.5 to 22.5 with Liz Cambage acquisition @BySamGordon
— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) May 16, 2019
And a good portion of the Aces schedule will be seen for fans even without a League Pass subscription. It looks as if 15 of Las Vegas’ contests will be on either one of the ESPN family of networks, Twitter, or CBS Sports Network.
And, let’s also remember that they have that All-Star Game thing this July…one Cambage and A’ja Wilson will likely be both part of if all goes according to plan in Nevada.
Give Liz Cambage a DJ set at every hotel and pool party in Vegas. pic.twitter.com/AISg3107cc
— Meredith Minkow (@murrminks) May 16, 2019
Great idea, Meredith. Great idea.
At a Monday press conference, Coach Bill Laimbeer explained that Cambage is the perfect player both for the team and the town.
We are Las Vegas. We do things big and over the top.
But also mentioned that when the idea of bringing Cambage to Sin City was first explored, the rest of his players were for it and that he was paying no attention to any of the negative chatter that may have ensued about Las Vegas’ newest attraction.
I want to coach the player, I want to know the player. I want to be with the player on our team and learn about who that player is.
Laimbeer did mention that she is also healing from an achilles tendon issue.
One thing that stuck out for Laimbeer was not only bringing one of the best players in women’s basketball to the Aces, but also bringing someone who is not afraid to step into a leadership role.
One thing Liz told me over the phone, she said, ‘Yo, coach, I can lead if you need me to.’ That’s pretty special coming into a blind situation like this one.
He talked about why the move was not only good for his team and town, but for the WNBA. Cambage talked about how she hadn’t played basketball since September — the FIBA World Cup where she represented her home country of Australia, but is ready to hit the court with her new team.
I bring that fire, I bring that aggression and that drive — that will to win.
One of the things that Cambage instantly noticed upon seeing what Vegas had in store was the quality of the facilities and how, in her mind, no other in the WNBA can compare.
This should be the standard of the league. These facilities here in Vegas are the best I’ve ever seen.
We shouldn’t be playing an hour and a half out of New York in a music hall.
Obviously, that was a reference to Laimbeer’s former team, the New York Liberty, who will more than likely play its final season at Westchester County Center this year.
Of course, one topic that would get lots of attention was how the trade saga was taking a toll on Cambage’s mental health. Those Instagram posts she put out when said trade talks between the Wings and the Aces were reaching their apex were a clear indication that she just wanted this situation behind her.
I’m just happy that I’m at an organization now really, really looks out for their players and cares about their players.
She was also asked about the possibility of her butting heads with Laimbeer, which would seemingly be a contrast to the bond she developed with her former coach in Dallas, Fred Williams.
If you have a clash, you make up and you move on and it makes the bond stronger.
Midway through the press conference, she had an emotional reflection on how her time in the WNBA has been honeycombed with obstacles and how it has brought her to this point.
She described her career stateside as “frustrating.”
I got drafted to a team I was open about not wanting to be a part of. When I came to the league, I was looking to be nurtured. I wanted to grow. I wanted to be looked after and cared for. But I was thrown in the deep end and there was no nurturing. There was no being cared for. I was just another object.
If you’re going to work and you don’t feel comfortable and you don’t like working with the people you see every day because they bully you…would you quit your job? Would you move? Would you try to find a new job? Why as an athlete do I not have a choice? Why as an athlete do people not respect how I’m feeling?
Then Laimbeer mentioned something that not too many people knew prior to the introductory presser — that it was not the first time he attempted to bring Cambage to one of his teams. He tried to get a deal done that would have brought Cambage to the Liberty, which would have been a huge deal for the WNBA to have arguably the world’s premier player in the W’s flagship market, but was blocked from doing that deal by Dallas.
Dan Padover, current General Manager of Basketball Operations for the Aces, who also worked alongside Laimbeer in New York, said that despite the soap opera that the Cambage talks became, one element allowed him and the organization to keep the eye on the prize.
There was one thing that kept coming back probably five to six times. And that’s — great teammate that wants to win. And I think we went to sleep every night knowing if we had those two things, we were absolutely fine.
–Dan Padover, GM of Basketball Operations, Las Vegas Aces
The lesson that Cambage wanted to take from this ordeal, she says, is that it made her much tougher.
I love that I went through my tough times because it makes me the strong person I am today…If I probably wasn’t treated so badly my first season, it wouldn’t have made me this person who wants to nurture the youth so much.
Cambage also mentioned that when it looked like a deal would be complete, there was a going-away dinner in Australia, but also reminded those that came that it may not have been a real going-away dinner as those trade talks between the Wings and Aces may or may not be complete.
Obviously, this time the trade was complete, in what was a relief for Cambage, her agent Allison Galer, and everyone else around her.
I just hope everyone can find their strength in living what they want to do. I could have played all those years that I sat out, but I would have been miserable. So what’s the point? Life is for living and life is for doing what you want to do and living it to the fullest.
As for life on the basketball court, she is more than ready to get back that…and make life difficult for defenders and opponents.
Teams can’t double-team me. They can’t. What, are you going to leave A’ja open? Are you going to leave the girls open on the three-point line? Like it’s not a thing. We have so many strengths in every area. It’s so exciting.
Speaking of Wilson, Cambage mentioned the similarities between her and last season’s Rookie of the Year’s play and that they can compliment and take lots of pressure off each other.
She’s just a force.
As for the Aces’ franchise, the deal comes at a time where Laimbeer set a “three-year plan,” which was mentioned at numerous times during the press conference. Laimbeer let his players know that it heightens the expectations for the team to compete for and win a championship.
One of the reasons why the situation is so ideal is because of what Cambage mentioned in an earlier part of the presser — the facilities MGM Resorts has established and the money spent into making the Aces a success on and off the court.
When I first got here, If you’ve been to Mandalay Bay Events Center the last few years, it was….tired. And when they got our WNBA team to come here, they put double-digit million dollars into refurbishing it, including the Jumbotron, all new seatings, all new locker rooms. It’s a perfect venue for our product.
We obviously can’t compete with a Madison Square Garden. It’s a much bigger venue, but at the same time, it’s too cavernous for our product.
While Cambage mentioned a few times during the press conference she did not feel like she was taken care of when drafted to Tulsa, Laimbeer proclaimed that would not happen in Vegas.
We push the envelope at all times within the rules because we want to make sure that the players are taken care of. And that’s one of the hallmarks I had in Detroit, that’s one of the hallmarks I had in New York when I was there. We take care of the players.
As for Cambage, her tumultuous trek from Tulsa, to Dallas and to Las Vegas has brought her to this point in her career. Now as a veteran player and on a team that is relatively young, she understands her leadership role she will play all the more.
One of her aims is to instill in the Aces’ young players is to make sure that they do not endure what she had to endure in her career thus far.
You can learn something new every day. You can make your game better every day and that’s what I’m here todo. It’s not going to happen overnight. Good things take time and that’s just what I try to remind the young girls. It’s all about putting in extra work. You’re not going to get better if you’re not here before practice putting up extra shots. That move isn’t going to happen if you just watch it on YouTube or watch it in a game. Like, you need to go out and do it.
There is a reason why the Aces look like title contenders and it is not only because of their new big two. Kelsey Plum and Kayla McBride should also be well-improved. Jackie Young will be in her first season. They also will have the veteran presence of Sugar Rodgers, who is familiar with Laimbeer from their days in New York.
It is not exactly the worst deal even for Dallas. They got some future draft picks in the deal along with Harrison and Jefferson, even though the latter has been rumored to sit out the 2019 season. Let’s not also forget it is Arike Ogunbowale’s first season with the Wings and Skylar Diggins-Smith may or may not return after the All-Star break.
Either way, everyone wins. Cambage gets to start her career anew with a new team, the Wings get to move forward with a fresh start, and Las Vegas now can shift its goal from simply contending for the playoffs to winning it all in 2019.