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Four takeaways from Liz Cambage’s trade request from the Dallas Wings

The Wings center may be angling for a trade to the Sparks. However, it will be difficult for Dallas to do this, and Brian Agler will have to coach differently than he has before.

Dallas Wings center Liz Cambage wants to play for a different team, but it’s unclear whether she can actually move to another team.
Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Last Tuesday, the Dallas Wings announced that center Liz Cambage requested a trade for next season. In a brief press release, Wings President and CEO Greg Bibb said that the team will “work to resolve this issue while keeping the interest of our organization the priority.”

It is clear that the Wings will part ways with Cambage in the near future. But it is unclear exactly how and when that will happen. Still, here are some takeaways from the Wings’ announcement.

Cambage appears to want to play for the Sparks

One of the reasons why Cambage came to play for the Wings after missing the 2014-17 seasons was because of the work that former head coach Fred Williams put in to stay in touch with her over the years. According to Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press, Cambage enjoyed working with Williams and was disappointed when he was fired last season. Williams is now an assistant coach for the Sparks.

Cambage also said that she wanted to play for Los Angeles when she was a teenager. Now that the Sparks have a coach who is close with her, it is certainly plausible that she would want to angle for a trade to L.A. According to WNBAinsidr, the Sparks are one of three teams that are interested in acquiring her.

The other teams that are interested in Cambage are the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty, though Cambage hasn’t requested a trade to these teams.

The Wings will probably get very little for Cambage because she isn’t American

On the one hand, Cambage has the talent of a typical WNBA superstar. She averaged 23 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in the 2018 season, which helped her earn a spot on the All-WNBA First Team.

But on the other hand, Cambage missed the 2012 and 2014 through 2017 WNBA seasons in their entirety. One of the reasons behind her multiple absences is because she is Australian. Cambage missed some seasons just to prepare for the Olympics and World Cups with the Opals.

And in others, she decided that resting during the summer was a higher priority than playing the WNBA. Ultimately, Cambage isn’t playing at home when she wears a Wings uniform, and the lower salaries are an incentive for her to skip, rather than participate in the WNBA altogether.

To Cambage’s credit, she is open to playing in the United States this summer. But other WNBA teams are aware of her past absences. They wouldn’t want to trade for a player whose commitment to the WNBA is spotty.

If a team does acquire Cambage, that team still may not have her longer than just one year. According to High Post HoopsWNBA salary database, Cambage is under contract for the 2019 season with a cap hit of $115,000. Should she play for another WNBA team in 2019 and retire from the league after that, then that team had better hope that Cambage was the final piece for a title. Otherwise, it could set that team back considerably. For these reasons, no WNBA team should be willing to part with their best players and draft picks for Cambage.

The Wings are probably headed toward another rebuild

Cambage may have made her decision to request a trade based on two factors. As mentioned above, she is close to now-Sparks assistant coach Fred Williams.

But she also knows that Skylar Diggins-Smith is pregnant with her first child and will miss at least part of the season. Even if she returned to Dallas, Cambage has likely determined that she would never be able to play for a contending Wings team.

Given that Diggins-Smith won’t be in optimal shape this season and that Cambage doesn’t want to play for Dallas, the Wings have to start thinking about a future without either of them, not just for 2019, but for their long-term future.

Brian Agler may not be the right coach for a rebuilding Wings team

Agler comes to Dallas with 15 years of WNBA head coaching experience, where he had stints with the Minnesota Lynx (1999-2002), Seattle Storm (2008-14) and Los Angeles Sparks (2015-18). His stints with the Storm and Sparks are the most memorable because Agler won the 2010 championship with Seattle and the 2016 championship with Los Angeles.

Over his time in the WNBA, Agler has coached some very strong defensive Storm and Sparks teams, something that Bibb noted in an interview with Howard Megdal of High Post Hoops. But it remains to be seen whether Agler and Bibb planned for a future where the Wings would have to rebuild without their top two players from the 2018 season.

Agler has a strong résumé “finishing the job” for multiple teams, but the Wings aren’t that type of team right now. He is often criticized for not giving ample opportunities for younger players to develop with sufficient playing time.

If Agler can show patience with younger players, growing them into a veteran core for the future, he could be a great fit for the Wings like Mike Thibault has for the Mystics since 2013. But if Agler came to Dallas simply expecting that this team would contend with just veteran tweaks, then this position isn’t the right fit for him.