CloseMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, ladies’s school basketball, and different school sports activities for espnW. Voepel started protecting ladies’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.
LAS VEGAS — Coach Invoice Laimbeer refers to this desert oasis as a “massive small city.” As in, Las Vegas is a big sufficient metro space to help the WNBA’s Aces properly, however not so enormous that they are misplaced within the panorama. It is a place, Laimbeer stated, the place somebody like Liz Cambage can stand out — and never simply because she’s 6-foot-Eight. However as a result of she has star high quality that extends past how good her recreation is.
But as excited as Las Vegas Aces followers are about getting the Australian heart — who got here by way of commerce with Dallas earlier this month — their workforce confirmed them a lot in Sunday’s season opener even with out her. The Aces received 83-70 over the Los Angeles Sparks, getting 21 factors and 11 rebounds from A’ja Wilson, final season’s rookie of the 12 months. Cambage, who’s coping with Achilles’ tendinitis, didn’t play, sporting a black swimsuit and a glance of focus throughout the recreation as she studied her new teammates and supplied encouragement.
She appears comfortable to be right here, even when the offseason saga of the place — or even when — she would play this season was draining. She’s becoming a member of a workforce that does not want her to return in and do every part however will give her a chance to be a difference-maker.
A’ja Wilson, final season’s WNBA rookie of the 12 months, opened with 21 factors and 11 rebounds because the Aces beat the Sparks 83-70. Ethan Miller/Getty Photographs
Wilson, considered one of three total No. 1 draft picks on the roster together with Kelsey Plum (2017) and Jackie Younger (2019), began Sunday the place she left off as a rookie, as one of the vital gifted gamers on the ground. However guard Kayla McBride (20 factors, seven rebounds) and ahead Dearica Hamby (12 factors, 14 rebounds) additionally shined for the Aces. Hamby, in her fifth season, got here off the bench to present Las Vegas a carry, which is her specialty.
Las Vegas led all through the sport, and firmly took management by holding the Sparks to eight factors within the second quarter. Los Angeles was with out veteran ahead Candace Parker, who has a hamstring harm. The Sparks have been identified for his or her protection lately, however there have been glitches in a special system below new coach Derek Fisher.
“It should take a while, however we now have to be affected person,” Sparks guard Alana Beard stated.
Sunday was the primary time the Ogwumike sisters, Nneka and Chiney, have performed collectively within the WNBA, with Chiney coming to Los Angeles in a commerce from Connecticut. Nneka had 17 factors and 11 rebounds. Chiney had a Sparks debut she’d in all probability wish to overlook, going 1-of-10 from the sector and ending with two factors.
Maria Vadeeva, a Russian put up participant in her second season within the league, led Los Angeles with 24 factors. It is unsure how lengthy they’re going to be with out Parker, however they missed her regardless of the quantity of expertise they do have.
Younger had a strong debut for the Aces, beginning and going Four-for-Four from the sector for eight factors. Plum had 11 factors and a team-high six assists. It was the form of recreation that has to whet the urge for food of Aces followers; in the event that they performed this properly with out Cambage, simply wait till she’s on the ground.
Nneka Ogwumike had 17 factors and 11 rebounds for Los Angeles. Youthful sister Chiney shot 1-for-10 and scored two factors. David Becker/NBAE by way of Getty Photographs
Laimbeer is frank — and he is right — in saying that Tulsa was the worst place Cambage may have ended up when she was drafted into the WNBA at No. 2 in 2011. The franchise had simply moved from Detroit, had somebody in Nolan Richardson who’d by no means coached the ladies’s recreation earlier than, and an excessive amount of was anticipated from the 19-year-old Cambage with a franchise that did not have sufficient expertise or sturdy course.
Despite the fact that it has been an extended highway for her to get right here, Laimbeer says he thinks it is the fitting match. The anticipation will construct for when she will get to take the court docket for the Aces. However Sunday’s victory was a great indication that Vegas is nice — and can quickly get even higher.