Liz Cambage and the Los Angeles Sparks have agreed to a contract divorce, the team announced Tuesday.
“It is with support that we share Liz Cambage’s decision to terminate her contract with the organization,” Sparks managing partner Eric Holoman said in a statement. “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.”
Cambage’s departure was first reported Monday night by The Ball Out. The Athletic’s Chantel Jennings confirmed the report Tuesday morning.
The star center joined the Sparks via free agency last offseason from the Las Vegas Aces.
“There’s truly nowhere else I have wanted to be in the WNBA and I’m just happy that I’m finally here after so many years,” Cambage said at the time.
She also said that the team would have a WNBA championship by the end of the season.
“Crowd’s gonna be lit. Building’s gonna be lit. Women’s basketball is going to be lit. It’s going to be the most wild summer the WNBA’s ever seen. That’s how I think this summer’s going to go,” the 30-year-old center declared. “And we’re going to have a ring at the end of it.”
But the season hasn’t gone according to plan. In early June, the Sparks parted ways with head coach and general manager Derek Fisher, with Fred Williams stepping in as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Williams, however, soon will be leaving to serve as the next associate head coach of Auburn women’s basketball.
Cambage also has created a stir due to reports stemming from her split with the Australian national team in the lead-up to last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Reports surfaced in May that the Australian center had gotten into a physical altercation with the Nigerian national team during a scrimmage ahead of the Games and had directed a racial slur at Nigerian players. Cambage denied that she used a slur.
“I did not use the racial slur towards the Nigerian team that has been circulating,” Cambage wrote on Instagram. “I have taken responsibility and accountability for my involvement in what occurred. I genuinely apologised to the Nigerian team and I once again, am sorry that these events are being rehashed.”
An Australian teammate, though, told the Daily Telegraph that the scrimmage was a breaking point for the Opals. Cambage withdrew from the Olympics soon afterward, citing her mental health.
“There had been so many behavioral issues that had gone on previously that we could write a book, but that incident happened to be the final straw which happened to be the worst one,” the teammate said.
In the wake of the allegations, the Sparks claimed that all was well within the organization. After internal conversations, the Sparks made the decision that Cambage would be “a welcome part of our team,” Fisher said.
Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, who unsuccessfully petitioned to play for the Nigerian national team at the Tokyo Olympics, called out the timing of the report and said the team “got past it.”
“Whatever agenda is happening with it resurfacing, that’s other people’s business,” she said. “And quite frankly, we talked about it before she came to the team and, granted, people have their own accounts of what happened, but we addressed it and we talked about how important it is for us to be together, be transparent and also empower giving people second chances.”
Cambage told Australia’s ABC network ahead of the season that she was “living [her] best life” with the Sparks while being “supported” and “protected on a level that the Opals or the Australian team never gave me.”
Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports reported Tuesday that Cambage had made clear her intentions to leave the Sparks to multiple individuals within the organization. A source close to the team told Williams that there were “chemistry issues” amongst players that “date back to late May.”
The center has played in 25 games for the Sparks this season, averaging 13.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.6 blocks per game.
Cambage isn’t the first player to make a surprise departure from her team this season. The Phoenix Mercury and Tina Charles agreed to a contract divorce in June, and Charles later joined the Seattle Storm.