Sparks

Sparks, Cambage Amicably Split While Franchise Maintains Pride

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Perhaps it’s, ironically, a Broadway song that reminds Hollywood of a new dawn’s hope.

“The Sun’ll come up tomorrow… you’re always a day away.” Perhaps not the most profound insight from Annie from her classic song. Golly, with the Earth about four billion years old, the Sun has a winning streak of over a trillion games by now!

But Annie may have been on to something all along, considering the needless angst over the Sparks’ contract divorce with super-talent Liz Cambage. Although Los Angeles experienced a problematic game in wicked Phoenix, the championship franchise showed immense grit in the close call. And with other contenders blinded by the beams of the playoff pennant race, LA has ample opportunity to reach paradise.

Hear No Evil

W Lead won’t call anyone out, of course, but fans may have noticed a gazillion rumors swirling about the Sparks’ franchise dysfunction. But as recently as July 21st, after a crucial triumph over Atlanta, Cambage’s positivity indicated otherwise.

https://twitter.com/LASparks/status/1550235178752024576

Sure, the news cycle is quick these days. But ten days isn’t enough for California’s proudest women’s sports team to go from humor and smiles to supposed despair.

After the game, a reporter asked Brittney Sykes [aka “slim”] about aggressiveness. After Chiney Ogwumike complimented Sykes, Cambage added: “I had to send slim a little text message; it was like a month ago?” Cambage recalled. “And I was just, inspired, like, having a teammate who is putting in the work, Nneka [Ogwumike] as well, y’all just be some well-oiled machine, just like, keep going and keep going, and I’m still trying to find my flow and my fitness and my lungs this season. But, having teammates that push it and go hard lifts you up as well.”

Does a devastated team push it, go hard, and lift teammates? Likely not.

Cambage waved off a concern about her third bout with COVID, thankfully relating that she recovered quickly. “It’s nice to be back. Just happy to be here at the moment.”

One probably wouldn’t be happy to be in an unhealthy work environment at any moment.

A bit later, a journalist asked Chiney Ogwumike a humorous question about a euro step basket, noting that coach Fred Williams claimed to have never seen it from her.

“Yeah, that’s a lie,” Ogwumike replied, leading to loud laughter in the media room. “That’s a joke. I did a euro earlier this season, and I pulled a hammy.” At that point, Cambage and Sykes literally bent over in laughter.

“You did a little euro, girl!” Cambage observed, happily chewing gum in a familiar, successful situation.

Admittedly, there were likely issues beyond what cameras could record. But the Sparks exhibited authentic joy after their last victory with Cambage. And while they’ve slipped twice since the breakup, success could be only a smidge beyond disappointment’s horizon.

Night Falls

On July 26th, the Sparks officially announced Cambage’s departure. “We want what’s best for Liz,” managing partner Eric Holoman stated, “and have agreed to part ways amicably.” Almost as soon as the Sparks’ Twitter expert clicked on the publish button, some reporters pointed fingers at the team’s culture for supposedly forcing Cambage’s decision.

But that hasn’t been the observation of this news outlet.

Despite losses and a challenging coaching change, LA displayed positive attitudes, upheld an unwavering work commitment, and refused to give up. If there was a sinister incompetence conspiracy behind the curtain, the Sparks sure did an excellent cover-up job!

Consider Los Angeles’s visit to Arizona. The first half, granted, generated frustration as a still-dazzling Diana Taurasi led the Mercury to a 54-32 lead.

However, the Sparks have struggled with early deficits all season; it’s wrong to claim that the Cambage divorce solely contributed to the disappointment.

Much more meaningful was how LA handled its adversity.

Phoenix didn’t come out with the same energy in the second half, seemingly thinking they had already extinguished the Sparks. But Los Angeles steadily whittled away the deficit behind a spectacular Chennedy Carter, who scored 23 points on 80% shooting.

https://twitter.com/LASparks/status/1552844240438247425

Soon, it was Phoenix who looked like a broken franchise.

Taurasi grew mightily frustrated with the officiating, although she kept enough poise to playfully hug a Spark to demonstrate disagreement with a foul call. Unfortunately, Skylar Diggins-Smith did not experience the same redemption. After running a long, long way from an official, Sky faced the first ejection of her professional career. Yikes! Usually, this would be a fitting place to joke about officiating being the worst institution in basketball.

That’s not the main takeaway of the near-comeback, though.

Even though the scoreboard said the Sparks lost, they maintained poise in fighting until the last horn. And, strangely, it was the Mercury who lost composure despite leading for the entire second half.

Tomorrow Is Here

What’s the true mark of a basketball player?

Points and victories do matter greatly. Make no mistake there! Perhaps when one looks back on the 2022 Sparks in 2042, however, they will notice something else.

Will we remember a random tweet about team troubles? Nah.

Will we recall what the playoff standings were in July? No way.

But father time might have to take an L after all on specific images. Cambage working diligently on an exercise bike before returning to a game. Chiney laughing her backside off over a successful yet silly play. Williams gently mentoring a team to achieve life satisfaction, no matter what the official record marks.

Annie’s words, even 45 years later, still sound true. Tomorrow is here in Los Angeles, but the Sparks’ dignity has gone nowhere while the Sun smiles evermore on a city with ceaseless pride for women’s basketball.

Tweets By WNBA Lead 

About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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