On moving forward without a deal for now.
In an exclusive interview with High Post Hoops, Dallas Wings president and CEO Greg Bibb revealed Thursday afternoon that he does not have a deal offer he’s willing to make at present for center Liz Cambage. He also explained just how close it has come to happening.
“There have been several times where I thought we had a deal done,” Bibb said in a wide-ranging telephone interview about the team’s recent acquisitions and trade discussions Monday afternoon. “Two times, at least, where I was rather confident we were heading to a resolution only to have things, for lack of a better word, fall apart at the eleventh hour.”
The frustration from Bibb was evident, and reflects a landscape that hasn’t allowed for the Wings to receive anything like equal value in a trade for a dominant player in her prime, though Bibb said he’s spent the better part of the last three months trying. His priority is to get “equitable value” for the Wings, of course, but he is also eager to see Cambage land somewhere that makes her happy. It’s where those two things conflict that the trouble starts.
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Previously, High Post Hoops has reported that the Los Angeles Sparks had offered their 2019 first round pick, 2020 first round pick and center Maria Vadeeva in a deal for Cambage, with other teams involved for both salary purposes and to provide an ultimate destination for Vadeeva.
Though Bibb would not comment on the record regarding any current proposals, two sources familiar with the ongoing talks told High Post Hoops that the Sparks have actually lowered their offer from the one that was nearly completed in the days ahead of the WNBA Draft on April 10. For their part, a league source said the Sparks are unwilling to offer that deal in part because Dallas was unwilling to accept it for months leading up to the draft, and the Sparks believe Dallas’ leverage has changed.
The continued stalemate reflects some intractable positions. The Sparks clearly believe their leverage is increasing as training camp approaches. Cambage remains resolute that she will only play in Los Angeles, something she hasn’t deviated from since first telling Dallas back in January that she wanted to be dealt.
And while other teams, notably Las Vegas, have both the willingness to pay both what is required in trade to satisfy the Wings and the eagerness to bring Cambage to town, she has not been willing to entertain such an option. Bibb said he has given “at least one other team” the opportunity to speak to Cambage directly, but Cambage reiterated her desire to play in Los Angeles only through her agent, Allison Galer of Disrupt the Game.
For her part, Cambage sees the ongoing stalemate as one that keeps her from her desired destination, one she has clearly communicated, for many months now.
The question becomes what the resolution is to be. From Bibb’s perspective, it’s straightforward. It’s time to plan for training camp with the players he has.
“As I sit here today, there isn’t a pathway because there hasn’t been a deal presented to me that I feel is equitable in exchange for her,” Bibb said. “So I mean, I know the pathway is we’re going to start training camp on May 5, with 14 players reporting, and we’re going to place the best roster together that we can and start the season.”
Notably, that group got considerably more competitive in last Wednesday’s draft. At the fifth pick, Bibb and the Wings drafted combo guard Arike Ogunbowale, a player Bibb sees as capable of thriving alongside Skylar Diggins-Smith, who he hopes and believes will return to play sometime in 2019.
“She just gets it done,” Bibb said of Ogunbowale. “And especially on the offensive end, as much talent as we have been able to put on our team the last couple of years, I thought one of the things we needed to do was to find a player who could truly go get her own shot. And Arike can do that.”
Given how effective both will need to be when the other has the ball, Bibb sees that Diggins-Smith and Ogunbowale are extremely efficient off the ball as well — Ogunbowale, for instance, reached her highest level of offensive points per possession, per Synergy, on spot-up possessions.
“You drill into the numbers and she’s a pretty darn good spot shooter as well,” Bibb said. “So she is an offensive talent that we’ll be able to add to a roster that gives us a different dynamic than the current roster and I think that bodes well for us moving forward.”
Bibb also spoke glowingly of 17th overall pick Megan Gustafson, whose offensive game he believe will vastly expand at the next level under Brian Agler. For Bibb, though, the biggest selling point for him about Gustafson was her work ethic: “I’ll give a kid like that a shot any day of the week.”
The same is true for 22nd pick, UCLA’s Kennedy Burke, and 29th overall pick Morgan Bertsch, a 6’4 big out of UC Davis who Bibb noted excelled not only on the block, but in transition as well.
That leaves the Wings “three deep at most positions, two deep at others”, as Bibb put it. But what it means for Cambage remains unknown.
One moving part that remains unresolved is just how much of Cambage’s Adidas contract is dependent on whether she plays in the WNBA. Bibb declined to comment on it. It’s been framed as all or nothing in some buzz around the league, but another league source familiar with such deals generally, though not Cambage’s specifically, explained that the often such deals are tied to playing in the league, on a pro-rated basis.
Galer did not respond on the record to a question seeking clarification on that, but a league source familiar with Cambage’s situation insisted the questions about her Adidas deal were simply an effort to entice other teams to deal for Cambage, noting how prominent Cambage has been on Adidas’ social media feed lately as further evidence that the deal contains many aspects beyond just games played in the WNBA.
Still, what would the Wings do if Cambage changed her mind, and was willing to report on May 5?
“She hasn’t indicated that to date, and if that was the case, we would cross that bridge at that time,” Bibb said. “Until I’m presented with that scenario, I can’t comment.” There is no indication from Cambage that she’d be willing to do so.
Bibb could also suspend Cambage, and would have to, if a deal is not completed by the time rosters are set and she does not report.
The evolving question of what constitutes equitable value for Cambage is an ephemeral question itself, as evident in the continuing gap between Dallas and Los Angeles on the question. For Bibb, who said “there’s not a defined framework” for what the Wings would need, just an evaluation of any offer that comes their way, part of the reason he isn’t willing to go forward may stem from a change in what Los Angeles previously offered.
And if Los Angeles simply returns to its previously offered deal, multiple league sources believe the trade could get done fairly quickly.
Still, if Cambage changes her mind and increases her number of possible destinations, Bibb said that he has no shortage of trade partners, even though 2019 draft picks have been exercised without Dallas’ needs solely in mind.
“I think any team in this league, because we have the best league in the world with the best 144 players in the world, has the assets to do a deal, right?”, Bibb said. “It just has to be motivated to do so.”
And so, until that happens, the stalemate rolls on, three parties staring at one another, the league’s premier talent hanging in the balance.
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