“Contract divorce” is a new phrase in the sports lexicon, courtesy of Liz Cambage and the Los Angeles Sparks.
With nine games remaining in the Sparks season and the team fighting for a playoff spot, the team parted ways with its 6’8″ All-Star Australian center and biggest offseason signing, calling it a “contract divorce.” Like many divorcees, the Sparks tried to put a positive spin on the split.
“It is with support that we share Liz Cambage’s decision to terminate her contract with the organization,” Sparks Managing Partner Eric Holoman said via the Associated Press. “We want what’s best for Liz and have agreed to part ways amicably. The Sparks remain excited about our core group and are focused on our run towards a 2022 playoff berth.”
Inside the locker room, things were far from amicable, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
Cambage requested to wear the No. 8, but the Sparks informed her the number would be retired to honor DeLisha Milton-Jones, sources say. So she asked for No. 1, but that number belonged to forward Amanda Zahui B.
According to sources, [then Sparks coach and GM Derek] Fisher approached Zahui B. about giving the number to Cambage and she politely declined, explaining the number meant a lot to her. Cambage still wanted the number. Time went by, and sources say management eventually made the call to give the number to the new starting center.
Zahui B found out about her number change on social media. That wasn’t the only thing the center did that didn’t sit well with teammates.
Liz Cambage was leisurely running up the court complaining on Saturday while playing against her former team, the Las Vegas Aces, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Her condemnation stemmed from not getting enough post touches from her Los Angeles Sparks teammates, which sources close to the team say was normal behavior for the four-time WNBA All-Star.
Teammates couldn’t help but acknowledge Cambage’s discontent, and in return out of annoyance, they began force-feeding her the ball regardless of what play was supposed to be run, sources say. After the Sparks’ 84-66 embarrassing blowout loss, Cambage rushed to the locker room to get dressed for an early exit out of the arena after finishing with 11 points and five boards in 22 minutes. Prior to departing the locker room, she had a message for her teammates:
“I can’t do this anymore. Best of luck to you guys,” she stated before storming out, according to sources with knowledge of her departure.
Cambage was a Fisher signing and when he was fired in June her shield in the organization was gone. Cambage has a history of friction with teammates in the past, including with the Australian national team, and Fisher reportedly was warned by Sparks players about those challenges. He signed her anyway.
Usually, in basketball at all levels, talent wins out — the higher the level of talent, the higher the level of tolerance for off-putting behavior. Cambage is unquestionably an elite talent. But there is a line that can be crossed, and things seem to have gotten there in Los Angeles.
It led to a contract divorce. And one that was a little messy.