Cambage doubtful as Aces open at home against L.A.
Liz Cambage is not expected to play in Sunday’s season opener for the Las Vegas Aces at the Mandalay Bay Events Center as they host the Los Angeles Sparks.
“Right now she’s doubtful. I don’t expect her to play. We’ll know tomorrow, but I don’t see it,” Aces head coach and president of basketball operations Bill Laimbeer told reporters Saturday. “We have a plan for her. This is right at the start of the plan. After this, I expect her to play no problem.
“This game we had penciled out for her for a multitude of reasons, but mainly because of her foot. We’re almost there but we don’t want to have any set back at this point in time. It’s a long season, and we expect her to be here for a lot of years, so what does one game mean in the whole scheme of things?”
The Sparks are also expected to play without one of their franchise players in All-WNBA forward Candace Parker (hamstring). The Aces will then travel to Phoenix next Sunday for their second game of the season to take on the Mercury, who are without All-WNBA guard Diana Taurasi.
Despite those notable absences, Laimbeer only wants his team looking inward as they aim to get out to a good start.
“We haven’t won a goddamn thing yet, so what would we be looking for with anybody else?” he said. “We have to look internally to ourselves. We have to learn how to win. Everybody says we’re going to win a championship. I say this is year two of three because we’re still a very, very young team. And we haven’t won anything.
“For three years, we were the worst team in the league and then last year we had a breakout year? No. We just started growing. So we’re going to continue to grow.”
Laimbeer and the Aces know what it’s like to start a season without a few key pieces. Starting guards Kelsey Plum and Kayla McBride missed the first two games last season as they wrapped up overseas commitments. The Aces got out to a 1-7 start then went 13-13 the rest of the way.
The entire 11-player opening day roster has been in Las Vegas since Sunday. Cambage arrived in time to watch Sunday’s preseason game. Though the aforementioned Cambage plan has lightened her practice workload out of the gates, the team had a chance to spend a full week together in preparations for the season. Even that much time together is a rarity in the WNBA.
Splitting a season into two chunks of time is an arbitrary measure, but last season’s collection of talent proved to be much better than their early win-loss record. With everybody stateside as they kick off the season, the team will at least be in a much better position to bank more early wins as they get to know each other and add Cambage to the mix.
“A’ja [Wilson] has grown up a tremendous amount mentally from last year, especially from her first game last year,” Laimbeer said. “So that’s a big positive. Plum knows what she wants to get accomplished. [Tamera] Young is playing very well.
“And we have Jackie Young. Nothing seems to phase her. She’s just very steady. I’m sure she’ll have her moments. But overall, she picks up everything quickly. She doesn’t make a lot of mistakes—she’ll make rookie mistakes—but she’s very confident in who she is.”
Laimbeer’s description of the 2019 No. 1 overall pick matches what her teammates have said throughout training camp. Quick and explosive but not out of control. Physical but not reckless.
“I think it’s just who I am as a person—super calm, laid back,” Young told High Post Hoops. “I think that’s pretty much how my game is. It just carries over onto the court.
Growing up in Indiana, Young enjoyed going to Fever games and admired longtime All-WNBA forward Tamika Catchings.
Professional basketball is still a very new thing in Las Vegas, but Young is excited to be a part of the growth of the franchise and putting a winning product on the floor, just as Catchings did for so many years for the Fever.
“You can definitely tell that basketball here in Vegas is going to be great,” Young said. “Just from talking to A’ja about last year, we have a great fan base. They do a really great job of supporting us, and it’s really loud in here.”
The Aces’ season opener against the Sparks tips at 8 PM ET and will be broadcast live on Twitter.