There's never a dull moment in The W, even on off days.
The Los Angeles Sparks have been shuffling through changes for most of the season due to injuries, COVID and other outside commitments — guard Kristi Tolliver joined the team late due to her assistant coaching work with the Dallas Mavericks, for example. Even the coaching staff has seen some turnover, with Derek Fisher abruptly leaving in early June.
They've been an enigma of sorts; a clearly talented roster with a lack of cohesion. Just when you feel like they're starting to round things together for a stretch, something happens.
We've got a pretty big "something" now, figuratively and literally.
As first reported by The Ball Out a little after midnight on Tuesday, Sparks center Liz Cambage will be departing the team. Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports later confirmed the report, adding that Cambage "quit" on the team and made her intentions to leave known to multiple people in the organization.
The Sparks released a statement shortly after on Tuesday morning, announcing Cambage and the team have agreed to a contract divorce.
Los Angeles Sparks announce a “contract divorce” with center Liz Cambage. pic.twitter.com/1olUZRWgTC— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 26, 2022
It's unclear why Cambage is leaving, especially now. It's worth noting that she's averaging the lowest amount of minutes (23.4), field goal attempts (9.2) and points (13.0) per game since her age-20 season back in 2013.
The frontcourt minutes were split between her, fringe MVP candidate Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike and rookie Olivia Nelson-Ododa. Finding the balance between featuring Cambage in a post-heavy offense and playing with more tempo has been a constant battle. The defensive trade-off is also worth noting; though Cambage has played higher up in pick-and-roll since interim head coach Frank Williams has taken over, the Sparks have been able to toggle through schemes a little easier with Cambage off the floor.
With Cambage out of the picture, it's fair to expect an uptick in playing time from both Chiney Ogwumike and Nelson-Ododa. Ogwumike remains a prolific defender and energizer bunny on the offensive glass. The latter is fresh off playing a career-high 20 minutes against the Las Vegas Aces on Saturday, finishing with 7 points, 5 rebounds and a block. Her work as a handoff hub and screener should vibe well with the Sparks' stable of guards. Her defensive work — namely her ability to navigate in space and deal with quicker forwards — could also prove valuable.
As uneven as the fit was at times, it's hard to ignore the presence Cambage provided on the interior. Her deep seals into the post threaten defenses in a way few players in The W can replicate. She finishes her Sparks tenure having made nearly 74% of her shots inside of 3 feet, per Basketball-Reference. Teams have been able to fluster the Sparks with zone defense; having a 6-foot-8 target like Cambage was a nice release valve to have.
The timing of the departure couldn't come at a weirder time. The Sparks have nine games left in their season. And though they currently hold the sixth seed, they're only a half-game ahead of the ninth-place Phoenix Mercury and three games ahead of the 11th-place Minnesota Lynx.
The hope for the Sparks will be to shore up their rotation while leaning more into the mobility of their roster on both ends.