Details are still murky, and no schedule has been released, but the 2020 WNBA season is supposed to begin this month at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Whenever play does start, it's sure to be the strangest season in league history, not only because of the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic but because of the big names that will be sitting out.
Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones isn't playing, and, among others, neither are Los Angeles Sparks duo Kristi Toliver and Chiney Ogwumike. Now, we can add another MVP candidate to that list: Las Vegas Aces star Liz Cambage. The Aces announced the news late Saturday night.
"Liz is a generational talent, and we are going to miss her this year on the court and in the locker room. She has been incredibly active this offseason in the community raising money for first responders who battled the brush fires in Australia, shining a light on mental health awareness, and standing at the forefront of the peaceful protests in her country battling social and racial inequality, and I have no doubt that she will continue to do so.
Although Liz won't be with us in Florida, she has our full support, and will continue to be a part of the Aces family and the city of Las Vegas for many years to come."
While no official diagnosis other than a "viral infection" was made, Cambage believes she came down with COVID-19 last winter while playing in China. She detailed the experience on Instagram back in March, saying she was so weak she couldn't walk, and had to spend multiple days in the hospital. Whether or not that played a role in her decision not to play this season is unclear, but it's worth mentioning.
Cambage forced a trade to the Aces prior to last season and immediately helped the team become a contender. Averaging 15.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, she led Las Vegas to the semifinals in their first playoff appearance since 2014. There, they took the eventual champion Washington Mystics to five games in a thrilling series.
After adding five-time All-Star Angel McCoughtry in free agency, the Aces were one of the favorites to win it all this season. Then, starting point guard Kelsey Plum tore her Achilles tendon in June, and now Cambage is sitting out. All of a sudden they're a much less talented team than they were a few months ago.
However, if there was any team in the league deep enough to sustain that kind of loss, it would be the Aces. A'ja Wilson is more than capable of stepping into a bigger role as the team's leading big, and McCoughtry and Kayla McBride are as good of a wing duo as there is in the league. With that trio leading the way and other contenders also having lost key players, the Aces should still be right there in the title hunt.
Still, Cambage's presence will sorely be missed, not just by the Aces, but the league in general. She's not only one of the most talented players in the world, but also is a terrific personality who makes the game far more entertaining.