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Report: Jersey number strife, film session callouts marred Cambage’s Sparks tenure

(Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

Conflict on and off the court marred Liz Cambage’s brief tenure with the Los Angeles Sparks, Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday night.

The star center and the team agreed to a contract divorce, the Sparks announced Tuesday, less than six months after she signed with the team as a free agent.

Her issues with the Sparks came to a head Saturday during the team’s matchup with her former team, the Las Vegas Aces, Yahoo Sports reported. Cambage was unhappy with her touches, which led to her teammates force-feeding her the ball out of annoyance in the 84-66 blowout loss, sources told Yahoo’s Chris Haynes.

Cambage, who ended with 11 points and five rebounds through 22 minutes, said on her way out of the locker room that she “can’t do this anymore” before wishing the team “best of luck,” according to the report.

Concerns surrounding Cambage predated her time with Los Angeles. Multiple Sparks players acknowledged that a focused Cambage could help the team, but they expressed concern over her issues on past teams, sources told Yahoo Sports.

Still, then-head coach and general manager Derek Fisher brought Cambage into the fold. He later was fired by the team in June.

The starting center made waves before the season even started with a jersey number swap. Cambage requested to wear No. 8, but the Sparks were retiring that number to honor DeLisha Milton-Jones. Instead, she requested to wear No. 1, which already belonged to forward Amanda Zahui B., per Yahoo Sports.

Zahui B. was approached by Fisher about a number swap, but she politely declined. Eventually, though, management opted to give the number to Cambage anyway — and Zahui B. learned of the switch via social media, Yahoo Sports reported.

In an unrelated move, Zahui B. was suspended by the Sparks for the 2022 season. Fisher cited Zahui B.’s overseas commitments, which he believed would have forced her to miss up to 13 games of the regular season.

During the season, Cambage criticized teammates during film sessions and accused them of not giving her the ball, Yahoo Sports reported.

The Sparks issues, though, extend beyond Cambage. Players expressed dismay over a perceived lack of leadership and accountability in the franchise, according to Yahoo Sports.

Another sticking point is the the team’s practice location, Jump Beyond Sports complex, which was chosen by Fisher and his staff prior to the season.

“An AAU team wouldn’t want to play there,” one player told Yahoo Sports.

Some of the Sparks’ practices in July have been held at USC and Arena instead, per Yahoo Sports.

Still, despite the strife, the team sits in playoff position in sixth place in the WNBA standings. The league’s top eight teams make the postseason.

“The mindset of the players is to keep moving on,” interim head coach Fred Williams said. “You’ve got to move forward. It’s one player’s decision to do what she needs to do.”

During a scheduled media session Tuesday, Williams – who has known Cambage since their time together in Dallas – addressed Cambage’s exit, saying the team “respects” her decision to leave.

“I was really, I was surprised a little,” Williams said. “It was kind of an emotional shock. A lot of it was she played her former team that she’s with and a lot of emotions flew around. It was a surprise. But I have to respect what she wants.

“Once a person gives you that verbally what she wants, you have to listen because it could be something else, could be something that’s not related to basketball.”