Feature image photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
WNBA Week 11 has come and gone, and it was a big one — plus, tomorrow is the 2023 Commissioner’s Cup! And, of course, don’t miss Carmen’s Fits of the Week!
Natalie: Should we start this week’s WNBA conversation with the Liz Cambage interview? For those who missed it, former WNBA All-Star Liz Cambage sat down with Bleacher Report‘s Taylor Rooks for a long interview about her time in the league, including her abrupt departures from Las Vegas and Los Angeles, as well as, her time with the Australian National Team…and particularly, the much talked about scrimmage with Nigeria.
Did you watch the Cambage interview and, if so, what were your takeaways?
Heather: So I did watch that interview, and then I watched the footage that was leaked from that actual scrimmage back before the last Olympics, and it turns out Cambage did, in fact, say all the racist things the Nigerian team reported, which of course made me then doubt every single thing she said in that Bleacher Report interview! Including this wild claim she made that she was going to play for Nigeria? That she was filing some kind of paperwork to not be affiliated with the Australian National Team, so she could go play for this team whose country she called a “shit hole?” Of course, nearly the entire Nigerian National Team has spoken out on Twitter to say that Cambage is not in talks with them, to reiterate the things she called them and the country itself, and to also say that everyone on their team — plus the video — has the exact same story, and only Cambage has a different one. It is just absolutely WILD to me that Cambage is making these claims when there’s proof she’s not being honest! I’m not sure she’s ever going to play basketball again. I would love to know your thoughts on this mess!
Natalie: One thing I’ve learned in life is that, generally, when people lie to you, there’s always one kernel of truth in what they’re saying…and that’s done intentionally so that you can’t dismiss outright what’s being said. So I want to start off by being clear that I think that Liz has some legitimate critiques about the league and its lack of professionalism. This is a topic we’ve dealt with repeatedly in our conversations about the W…from BG’s travel issues this season to the issues with Skylar…I think there’s a legitimate critique to be made that the league needs to do better.
Natalie: That said, the rest of the interview was absolute garbage. I mean, I am really astounded by the level of narcissism and complete unwillingness to take accountability for even the simplest things. Just one lie after another after another. And, to be clear: I’m not taking someone else’s word for it…there are so many times in the interview where Cambage will say one thing and then later completely contradict herself. Like, when she claims to be an honest person then Rooks asks her about her time in Los Angeles — which Liz was effusive about at the time — and Cambage acknowledges that she was lying then. I really don’t know how anyone’s supposed to take her seriously.
We know about the Sparks’ issues, in terms of facilities, because that’s part of the reason that Candace Parker left…and yet I’m supposed to believe that a franchise that can’t get the team a legitimate locker room is gonna offer her a G-Wagon? C’mon, dawg…be serious.
Heather: Right, even Jordin Canada, who is never involved in this kind of stuff, tweeted out to tell Bleacher Report to call her if they wanted the real story from Liz’s time in LA. (With the Pinocchio emoji, which I will admit made me laugh.)
— Jordin Canada ✨ (@jordin_canada) August 8, 2023
Natalie: And the Nigeria thing…I admit that I didn’t hear the exchange that the Nigerian and Australian players said occurred but I definitely heard her call them ghetto multiple times…and so this meek defense that she’d never say anything racial because she’s so pro-black?! Yeah, I don’t believe that either.
Heather: Why do you think she even did this interview? Do you think she wants to come back to the W?
Natalie: I think she does want to play ball again. She says repeatedly that she doesn’t care about the league, that she prefers playing with the boys, and she’s not keeping up with things but then she’ll talk about her scoring record — and which current WNBA players might break it — and the situation with Skylar…and it’s clear that she’s definitely keeping tabs on things. Do I think she’ll ever play in the league again? Not at all.
And I’ll freely admit: I liked watching her play. She was entertaining…she was the kind of post-player that I grew up with…like a Yolanda Griffith. Also? I don’t think every player in the W has to be likeable. It’s good for women’s sports to have a villain…and when Liz would sit on the sidelines, filing her nails or eating some popcorn…that was fun and entertaining to me.
So while I’m very much like, “girl bye!” when it comes to Cambage, I’m also disappointed because it’s another person — like Riquna Williams — who can’t get out of the way of their own talent.
Heather: Yep, I absolutely agree! And, man, if she could have kept it together and played with her whole heart (which she didn’t always do), she would be such a huge asset to any team in this league. She is my favorite kind of post player to watch, and I did love her swagger, but dang, Liz!
You mentioned Candace Parker, and I do have to say how relieved I was to see her on the Aces IG at the game this weekend. She had gone completely MIA, even on her own socials, after her injury and surgery, so I’m just glad to see her face and know she’s (relatively!) okay!
Also, though, in the wide world of W drama, what in the heck happened between Kelsey Plum and Tanisha Wright last night?
— WNBA Got Game (@wnbagotgame) August 14, 2023
Natalie: I wanted to ask you about that because I only caught the tail end of it on social media. Do you know what happened?
Heather: I actually went to bed before the game was over, so I only saw it this morning. I don’t know what, like, led up to the confrontation, but based on the video, KP said or did SOMETHING that caused Tanisha Wright to call her an asshole, and the Vicki Johnson came over and got in her space, and THEN A’ja Wilson came running over and said, “Y’all not about to roll up on my girl like that” and Tanisha walked off. Whatever did happen, Becky Hammon was trucking it out of there so fast. She did not want to be in it, which was extra bizarre!
I’ve looked all over the place for an explanation and someone said KP was running her mouth to the Dream bench during an and-one call at the end of the game.
Natalie: In her defense, Becky had both her boys at the game and wasn’t paying any attention to what went on with KP and Tanisha Wright.
Heather: And honestly she was probably so exhausted from the Hall of Fame induction this weekend. She just wanted to pocket that W and go HOME.
Natalie: I mean, I think a lot of players talk shit after an and-one…so that’s not really that surprising to me. I am, however, surprised that of all the shit talking players in the W, Kelsey Plum is the one that gets confronted by the opposing team’s coach first? I mean, Plum over Sabrina, Diana and Natasha Cloud? I did not see that coming.
Heather: Over MARINA MABREY? If Tanisha Wright called Marina Mabrey an asshole, she’s just be like, “Yeah, and?”
Natalie: Yeah, I’d just be like, “okay, you right.”
Heather: LOLOLOL! Well, I touched on it, so what did you think about Becky Hammon’s Hall of Fame induction this weekend, where I finally got to see her wife for the first time in my life.
Natalie: I cannot believe that. She was at the jersey retirement ceremony.
Heather: I can’t either, I have like a Spidey-sense for gay wives!
Natalie: I will say, though, that Brenda’s rarely introduced as her wife…which bugs me to no end…so I understand how you might have missed it.
Heather: Dang, their boys are cute cute cute!
Natalie: They’re so adorable.
Did you get to watch any of the Hall of Fame activities? What’d you think of Hammon’s speech?
Heather: I did! No surprise that it absolutely made me cry. I think for people who are newer fans of the W, it’s probably not really obvious what an underdog Hammon was her entire career. She was too short, she didn’t go to the right school, her WNBA draft class coincided with the end of the ABL which left her undrafted in favor of more senior, seasoned players/stars/former Olympians, she never made the US Olympic team so she applied for dual citizenship and played for Russia. And then, all the years she spent trying to break into and make a name for herself coaching in the NBA summer league and as an assistant. So in her speech, when she said to Gregg Popovich, “Pop, I’m not gonna look at you,” and then she and Pop both started sobbing? Yeah, well, me too! She seemed nervous during her speech, which you don’t see from her very much, and so so so grateful for her family, which made me cry harder. I think, also, the way the Aces players spoke about her this weekend, every time they were asked, was really beautiful too. There’s just about nothing I love more than a legacy of women uplifting women — and, forgive me for being so shallow, but she looked damn good in that orange blazer! What about you?
Natalie: I think you’re spot on with what my reflections were going to be: the place she’s in right now is so improbable for this short kid from South Dakota who went to Colorado State…and it shouldn’t be taken for granted how hard she had to work to get to this spot where she is. With respect to the Olympics thing, I just want to point out, because it’s not said enough: she should’ve been on the US National Team. We’ve seen this play out, in subsequent years (see also: Nneka Ogwumike), where players don’t get chosen for reasons that have nothing to do with basketball…and Becky Hammon was that player. At the time when she should’ve been picked, she was, I think, leading the league in scoring and a top candidate for league MVP. It was preposterous that she was left off the roster in the first place and that she had to join the Russian National Team.
Heather: Yep, that’s absolutely right! I have this hangup with Becky Hammon where I’m afraid to love her because I feel like it’s inevitable that she’s going back to the MNBA, but she has done so much for this sport and she absolutely deserved this weekend!
Natalie: I think that’s a forgotten part of the story — that she was kept off the National Team for bullshit reasons — but that’s also a big part of Hammon’s life story. They wouldn’t make space for her on the National Team, so she went and found her own path to the Olympics…and then they criticized her for the path they made her take. Likewise with the MNBA…they’re not making space for her to coach in the league on her own merits and then criticize her for the path they made her choose.
Heather: You’re absolutely right! That’s such a incisive comment!
Next stop for Becky Hammon and the Aces: the Commissioner’s Cup on Tuesday night!
Natalie: I’m so excited for the Commissioner’s Cup. Your Liberty are riding a six game win streak into Tuesday night’s game; what are you hoping to see from your squad?
Heather: I’m hoping for a couple of VERY DOABLE things. I want to see them take care of the basketball. When they are moving the ball well in their half-court sets and transition, it gets everyone involved and feeling good and that’s when they’re playing peak basketball. But they are so prone to slipping into these long stretches of just turning the ball over and over and giving up huge leads, so I want to see them not do that. I want to see them playing the kind of individual and team defense that seemed to come out of nowhere (though I know it didn’t actually) after the All-Star break. And I want to see good shot selection that includes Betnijah Laney getting her crucial looks at the basket. Stef Dolson is also back just in time! She is such a difference maker defensively and on the boards, which is especially crucial against the Aces who draw fouls by just existing in the same space as other players. I also want to see a CLEAN GAME. No elbows to necks! What are you hoping for? And will you be bold enough to make a score prediction??
Natalie: I will not be bold enough to make a score prediction but I really am looking forward to this game. I think this is going to be a real test for both squads. The Liberty are playing their best basketball of the season and so we’re going to get a chance to see if the Liberty can really challenge the Aces for the crown this season. I want to see the Liberty sharing the basketball. In their last loss against Minnesota, they only had 20 assists and last night in their win against the Fever, they had 32. I think that’s the key to unlocking their best basketball.
Natalie: I’m looking forward to seeing how the Aces respond to the way they got trounced by the Liberty last week. I think we’ve seen a bit more fight from that team since then, led by the phenomenal play of A’ja Wilson. We talked earlier about Kelsey Plum jawing at the Atlanta bench…but I think that’s fire that comes because of that New York loss. I think this team is really fired up to try and avenge that loss.
What about you? Are you bolder than me?
Heather: I agree with you that the Aces are primed to play some of their best basketball, which is always scary and exciting! And you know A’ja, personally, is going to be trying to avenge that 2-15 performance from last time. I actually don’t know who I think is going to win, which isn’t something I would have ever guessed I’d be saying a month ago when the Aces seemed invincible. That’s thrilling!
It’s also the only thing going on this week. It’s just all Aces vs. Liberty until the weekend! I hope that’s good news for teams that need some rest!
Natalie: And for my fantasy line-up to re-assert itself!
Heather: Same here!
I can’t wait to meet you back here next week to talk about the Commissioner’s Cup game and our hopes and dreams for the rest of the season. And to complain about these inevitable bad refs, lol!
Natalie: Absolutely! We’ll revisit some of our early season predictions and determine if we were on the mark with those…and, if not, who we think the favorites are going down the stretch!
Heather: I can’t wait! Let’s turn it over to Carmen for FASHION! Carmen, do you have some Fit of the Week winners for us?
Carmen: I mean the obvious winner here is Becky Hammon, right? Because if there’s a colder fit than an orange Hall of Fame jacket, I most certainly do not know it.
Carmen: But also, I thought Becky’s lightly wavy hair and make up was sensational with the purple suit coat she wore to her induction. It’s hard to see from this video, but she also wore a simple large face watch that took my breath away. I love a good watch, it’s so gay when its done well.
Carmen: Speaking of gay fashion and the Las Vegas Aces! I can’t exactly crown this “best fit” of the week, but kudos to Kierstan Bell for an extreme level of gayness. This might be the gayest outfit I’ve seen all year (and the commitment? To wear long pants and a fuzzy sweater… in Las Vegas… in August????) and in the WNBA, “gayest outfit” is already saying a lot.