Los Angeles Sparks' Liz Cambage happy for Becky Hammon, says work needed on player salaries

Eleven years after she was drafted into the WNBA, center Liz Cambage is finally where she wanted to be all along: with the Los Angeles Sparks.

Cambage was introduced by the Sparks in a news conference Wednesday at Crypto.com Arena. She talked about what she hopes to bring to the team and why she has always been willing to speak her mind on issues she sees with the league.

"I find myself saying, 'If not me, then who?' And if not now, then when?'" Cambage said. "I don't know if it was the fire my mother raised me with to never back down or be put in a corner, and just say your truth. If something's not right, I'm going to question it.

"And I'm also the type of person, I never want to take away from what someone else has. I want to work out how we can get more. I hate to see things that I've said be portrayed that I'm trying to take away from someone else. I've never been that person. I've never been a jealous person. I live a very blessed life. But I'm going to say something if we need change."

Earlier this month, Cambage on social media questioned why new Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon would be getting a $1 million a year in salary, about four times what the WNBA's super-max salary is for players. Cambage was with the Aces from 2019-21, although she didn't play the 2020 season due to a medical exemption. A free agent, Cambage then signed with Los Angeles this month.

"I've known about Becky's contract since it happened last year," Cambage said of Hammon, the former WNBA player and current NBA assistant who was named the Aces' new coach in late December. "I love it for Becky. I love it for all women. I hope everyone makes a million dollars a year one day. But until then, we've got to work out better ways to give us, the players, more."

Player salaries are collectively bargained, whereas coaches' salaries are not. The players' union and league reached the most recent agreement in January 2020. A year later, Raiders owner Mark Davis bought the Aces. He and some of the WNBA's other wealthier owners have tried to push the needle since then in regard to things like travel accommodations. But the league, wanting to make travel uniform for all 12 teams to maintain competitive parity, has pushed back.

Cambage said that last season, Davis wanted to charter a flight for the Aces back from WNBA semifinal Game 4 in Phoenix on Oct. 6 to Las Vegas for Game 5 on Oct. 8 but wasn't allowed to by the league.

"So we're on a 5:30 bus to the airport to get back to Vegas for Game 5 of the playoffs," Cambage said. "You're not going to get the best out of athletes if they're treated like that. So everything I'm saying, I'm not just sitting around bitching just because I have a view. I want the best for women.

"I don't care if you're in the WNBA, if you're in college, if you're in high school. I want the best for you, and that's why I use my voice. Change will happen."

The league announced in 2019 a policy change for the playoffs that would allow teams to get a chartered flight if there was 24 hours or less between games and they had to cross time zones. The league did this for Las Vegas in 2019 when the Aces had to quickly get to Washington, D.C. to start the semifinals. But the league doesn't let individual owners make their own exceptions for charter flights.

Cambage, who is 6-foot-8, also said she would pay to upgrade her seating on flights this season.

"At the end of the day, I love to hoop, and I love to have a good time," she said. "It ain't so bad having to upgrade my ticket, especially when I make a lot of money off the floor as well. So, I'm very lucky. [But] it should just be the standard. We're not asking for private jets [each flight]."

As far as playing for Los Angeles, Cambage said it is a dream come true. When she was up to be drafted into the WNBA at age 19 from her native Australia in 2011, she made it clear that she hoped to go to the Sparks. But she was the No. 2 pick by the Tulsa Shock, and played just two seasons in Tulsa. Cambage returned to the WNBA in 2018 after the Shock had moved to Dallas and became the Wings, and she led the league in scoring that season. Then she requested a trade and went to Las Vegas.

Cambage praised the Aces organization, but said she is ready to help the Sparks and coach/general manager Derek Fisher pursue the franchise's fourth championship. She said if she and the Sparks hadn't reached an agreement, she wouldn't have played in the WNBA this season.

"I focus on what I can do and what I can bring, which is a big target," Cambage said. "It also means a lot to me to be working with a coach who knows how great I can be. He's going to allow me to be the player I am.

"The opportunity to play here and work here and be part of such a prestigious organization, it was a no-brainer. There's nowhere else I want to be in the WNBA. 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."