Wings' Liz Cambage gives her thoughts on just about everything
By Dorothy J Gentry
Liz Cambage pays little to no attention to the hype, hoopla or hysterics surrounding her return to the WNBA. Reciting her game stats or numbers, asking about the possibility of earning season MVP honors or even what legacy she hopes to leave behind; none of that is her focus.
Just give her a W. That’s all she wants.
“I don’t even think about it. People talk about stats, I just want to win,” said the 6-foot-8 Cambage, one of the top centers in women’s basketball. “I could have 0 points and if we win the game, I’m happy with that. I don’t get caught up in all that.
“I don’t really think about leaving a legacy. I don’t really think about that. I’m just here in the moment. I just focus on the game.”
Yeah, we noticed. The former WNBA No. 2 overall pick is in the midst of a triumphant return to the league after several years carving out a distinguished career in China and in Australia’s WNBL. In five games with the Wings (2-3), she has made her presence felt, giving Dallas a compelling combination of size and defensive presence and greatly improving their ability to protect the rim and rebound.
Currently, she is ranked first in blocks (2.8 per game), ninth in scoring (19 ppg) and second in rebounds (12 a game). In Tuesday’s loss to the Liberty, she scored a season-high 28 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
In short, she’s a triple-threat player who can shoot, pass and defend inside the paint. She’s infusing energy, excitement and a must-watch TV vibe into the league with brilliant displays of talent. After a recent Wings practice, the London, England native sat down with WNBAInsidr to talk about her return to the Wings, forming a dynamic duo with Skylar Diggins-Smith, pay disparity among the NBA and WNBA, and whether the league should expand.
On leaving the WNBA: “When I was with the Tulsa Shock it wasn’t the greatest. It was a hard time for me. It really pushed me away from basketball.”
Cambage was drafted at age 19 with the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft but famously voiced her displeasure at playing for the Shock. She spent parts of two seasons with the Shock - 2011 and 2013 - and earned WNBA All-Rookie Team honors in 2011.
“I don’t regret anything,” Cambage says of her decision to leave. “I have no regrets in life. I didn’t want to be a part of the franchise. My first two years were horrible. It’s not nice being a rookie and not being supported and actually having the game, the love of basketball bullied out of me.
“I think that is one thing, it taught me a lot about myself and who I really want to be. I want to support our rookies like Z (Azura Stevens) and help our younger players to grow.”
On her WNBA return: “I had kind of stepped away from the WNBA to focus more on Team Australia and playing in China a lot. I wanted to come back to the WNBA and lead (the Wings) to be world champs. I felt like this was the best place for me to grow and develop.”
On the biggest change in the league she’s noticed: “The game has definitely changed a little bit. There are more dominant big players today.”
On teaming with Skylar: “I love playing with her. We’re still developing our connection on the court. Off the court she’s a great leader, great teammate. I played with her in Tulsa her first rookie year. It was rough but to see how hard she has worked and how much she’s developed and where her game is today, I’m super proud of her. I love playing with all these girls.”
On making it to postseason play: “You know we’re a very young team, but we can’t use that as an excuse. I think we’re going to do good things this season. But like our game against New York, we should not have lost. It’s about coming out strong and having that maturity. Coming out with energy and playing smarter on defense. You look at teams like Minnesota and they’re so smart the way they use their body and run their game. Little things like that we’ve got to learn.”
On equity in the league: “It’s very important to focus on equality. Young girls look up to us. I looked up to Penny Taylor. But it is hard at the end of the day when we talk about equality. Are we really equal to the men these days? You look at our paychecks, the way our league is ran compared to the men. There’s no comparison. It’s not even on the same level. So before we start promoting all this equality we need to look at what we are doing ourselves as well.
When it comes to sports, male and female paychecks, it is so different. I want to push my daughters to play sports but how do I sit my daughters down and say, your brother could make a 100 times more than you this year. It’s hard. It’s something I’ve pushed for, for years and years and years. And it comes down to sponsorships and marketing and support. I think equality is a big thing and putting girls to the front is massive.”
On WNBA expansion: “There are so many girls missing out on playing for the WNBA because there’s not enough teams. It’s hard. I’m not a team owner. Maybe one day I’ll own my own team and be able to support the women in this league. It’s sad to see so much talent missing out on teams and playing.”
What’s on her pre-game playlist: “I listen to a lot of techno. A lot of European techno acts. My car is thumping when I pull up to a game. Since I was a kid, growing up I just liked techno. It’s been fun to see what I listen to develop but I still have a love for rap and hip hop, too. I’m a big J. Cole fan, Kendrick (Lamar), Sza.”
On what aspect of her game she would change or improve: “I really need to work defensively on my movements and just getting used to playing with the team and finding a way to mesh with the girls. Some of them have been playing together for three, four years. I really want to work on everything: my outside game, my finishing, my foul shots; but right now it’s my defense and meshing with the team which are the two biggest things I need to work on.”
On being humble: “I’m just me. I’m just another person. I have a God-given gift of my height and basketball is my talent but it t doesn’t define me. I do a lot of things away from the basketball court. And at the end of the day, I think everyone is equal.”