An unexpected twist to this year’s free agent period occurred the other day with a trade that went down between the Las Vegas Aces and the Los Angeles Sparks.
That trade, executed by Natalie Williams at the Aces and Karen Bryant at the Sparks sent Dearica Hamby to Los Angeles and Amanda Zahui B. to Las Vegas.
It was unfortunate that Zahui B. was unable to play last season following the 2021 season – her first and only with the Sparks. There are 11 teams – including her former New York Liberty – that are automatically improved with her on a roster, particularly given her 3-point shooting prowess.
Also included in the deal is a first round pick in the 2024 draft to the Aces and a second round selection for the Sparks in that same draft.
While Zahui B. deserves to be on a contending team, the story here is Hamby, who has been with the organization since the San Antonio (Silver) Stars days. Hamby is a former Sixth Woman of the Year, participated in the All-Star Game last season and delivered one of the most famous shots in the history of the WNBA – the Hamby Heave – that sent the Aces to a 2019 semifinals against the Washington Mystics and eliminating the Chicago Sky.
So the question asked is a simple one – why would the Aces trade Hamby? She posted on her Instagram account that this has a lot to do with her decision to become pregnant with another child.
Hamby hinted about this in a tweet that the Aces were doing her dirty in regards to her pregnancy. She held nothing back in that Instagram post. Hamby has also retweeted a couple of accounts alluding to not accepting disrespect and going where one is appreciated – that now can also be interpreted as also aimed at the Aces.
This is not the first case of a WNBA player’s pregnancy coming in conflict with her career. Skylar Diggins-Smith revealed a few seasons ago that she played the entire 2018 season while carrying a baby. Diggins-Smith that season was a member of the Dallas Wings.
This has also received the attention of the WNBPA – and they are not playing around.
The WNBPA’s executive committee recently revamped itself earlier this year. Nneka Ogwumike, who would be Hamby’s teammate in Los Angeles if she were to return to the Sparks, is the organization’s president. Kelsey Plum, still with the Aces, is now its First Vice President.
Speaking of Plum, she too had an Instagram response to the Hamby-for-Zahui B. trade.
The reason why the WNBPA is getting involved (as it should) is because better protections for mothers were a major element of the CBA that was inked in early 2020 (before the onset of the pandemic) with the WNBA.
One irony of this story is how the Aces, which arguably have the best social media accounts of any of the 12 WNBA, have posted numerous photos and videos on said accounts with Hamby’s child, Amaya.
One element of Hamby’s post that had to particularly hit was considering who is in the Aces front office. Las Vegas has a team president in Nikki Fargas who is a woman, a general manager in Williams who is a woman and a head coach in Becky Hammon who is a woman.
Of course that does not take away from the fact that the team’s owner is Mark Davis – a white male. That front office may be chock full of women, but a white male at the end of the day still signs the checks.
Teams – and the WNBA as a whole – need to do better at protecting players who wish to become mothers. Davis has been praised (rightfully) throughout WNBA circles for being an owner that spends real money into ensuring the Aces, defending champions from last season, have a top-tier product on the court game in and game out. He is also reaping the rewards of Sin City becoming a year-by-year host of the W’s All-Star weekend (save for last season in Chicago).
But this should not be a hard issue for the WNBA to address. Speaking of Instagram accounts, notice the first two words on commissioner Cathy Engelbert’s?
The Aces are also an organization that recently has been linked to a possible free agent signing of Candace Parker. While the Aces are an organization that has made a name of taking good care of its players, this is the type of controversy that may make players – especially those giving real thought to having children – think twice before sporting Las Vegas’ signature red, gold and black colors.
Some players may think more about motherhood at the beginning of their careers. Others later on when they perhaps realize that their playing days in the W are close to coming to a close. Regardless, the W and its incumbent 12 teams need to do better with protecting players who wish to raise children.
After all, these are the children who may wish to follow in their elders’ footsteps.