The (almost) last time she was on a WNBA court, the Las Vegas Aces’ Liz Cambage gave us this immortal moment:
The interview encapsulates all that is great about Cambage — attitude, ambition and absolute confidence.
After a one season absence from the WNBA, as Cambage received a health exemption for the 2020 season (and likely did not want to leave the more competent confines fo Australia for the chaos of the United States during the coronavirus pandemic’s summer peak), the unapologetic Aussie is back! Will she be better than ever?
Cambage the comet
While Cambage’s WNBA career has been incredible, it also has been incredibly frustrating for WNBA fans.
Drafted with the No. 2 pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft by the Tulsa Shock, Cambage has played only four WNBA seasons, for a total of 117 games. As a rookie on an unraveling Shock team that she, understandably, was reluctant to play for, she was the lone bright spot, earning All-Rookie and All-Star honors. After skipping the 2012 WNBA season due to Olympic obligations with the Australian Opals, she returned to Tulsa in 2013. Yet, her 20-game 2013 season would be her last in the WNBA for five years, as she instead primarily played in the Chinese Basketball Association.
In 2018, Cambage made her way back to the WNBA, suiting up for the relocated and renamed Dallas Wings. Her impact was indelible, highlighted by her WNBA-record 53-point performance against the New York Liberty that July. Piloting the Wings to a playoff berth, Cambage, who led the league in scoring with 23 points per game, earned her second All-Star appearance and first All-WNBA First Team nod.
However, uncertain about and uncomfortable with the direction of the Dallas organization, Cambage demanded a trade. Although she had her eyes on Los Angeles, the Las Vegas Aces rolled the dice, hoping she would give Sin City a chance instead of again abandoning the WNBA. Cambage did indeed join the Aces and, while injuries prevented her and A’ja Wilson from jelling into a dynamite duo, she did not disappoint, securing All-Star and All-WNBA Second Team honors before giving us that amazing moment discussed above.
In short, watching Cambage’s WNBA career has been like searching the sky for comets. During her time in the WNBA, she has burned bright, mesmerizing observers with her play and personality. Yet, these thrills have only been temporary, often leaving her supporters wondering when they will see her again.
And while WNBA fans may wish Cambage had consistently played in the WNBA, the degree of self-determination she has exercised over her career should be applauded. She has only played when and where she has wanted to play. Refusing to simply be grateful for the opportunity to play professional basketball, she has pursued a hoops career on her terms.
Fortunately for us, she is back in the WNBA for the 2021 season!
How does Cambage fit with the #ALLIN Aces?
Before COVID-19 disrupted the 2020 WNBA season, the Aces appeared ascendant. It was expected that the frontcourt rotation of Cambage, Wilson and Dearica Hamby, after an initial experimental season, would establish the coherency and chemistry necessary to be greater than the sum of their parts. They were to be bolstered by Angel McCoughtry, who was signed as a free agent during the 2020 offseason to inject the Aces with veteran savvy and playoff experience.
Instead, with Cambage remaining in Australia, Wilson flourished, winning MVP honors as she led the underwomanned Aces, who also were without presumed starting point guard Kelsey Plum, to the WNBA Finals, with Hamby and McCoughtry serving as steady co-stars.
As the Aces welcome Cambage and Plum back into the fold, they also will be incorporating another superstar in Chelsea Gray, who Vegas signed away from the Los Angeles Sparks as a free agent during the 2021 offseason.
This collection of talent is why the Aces topped Swish Appeal’s preseason power rankings.
Nevertheless, it can be hard to wrap one’s head around how all these talented players will be maximized. Cambage, like Wilson, is an MVP-level talent. But, on such a loaded squad, will Liz get to be Liz? Will this comet, returning to the WNBA sky, be able to burn her brightest amongst all the other bright lights of the Vegas Strip?
Cambage will not “get out of the post”
Yes, Instagram is not reality. But, based on offseason social media posts, Cambage will enter the 2021 WNBA season in the best hooping shape of her career.
With her fitness level locked in, Cambage can combine her force and finesse to fluster opponents in the post, while also keeping the defense unsettled with her ability to step out and swish a sweet midrange jumper.
Before putting in work in the United States this spring, she led the WNBL’s Southside Flyers to the 2020 WNBL title, scoring 23.5 points, grabbing 8.7 rebounds and swatting 1.7 blocks in 15 games.
@ecambage took her game to the next level against the Boomers last night, guiding us to a big victory on the back 35pts, 7rebs & 4blks!— Southside Flyers (@SouthsideFlyers) December 7, 2020
See all the highlights from her #FlyersFamily Player Of The Game performance here #WatchUsSoar #WNBL20 #WeAreSouthside #POTG pic.twitter.com/3pCm19MhAa
So maybe it is shortsighted to stress about how Cambage will “fit” with all of the Aces other stars. Her past WNBA performances, in combination with current form, suggests, one way or another, Cambage will exert her will on the W, capturing the attention of fans, the ire of opponents and a number of accolades.