Aces coach Bill Laimbeer immediately noticed Liz Cambage’s skills Tuesday. In the low post. On the perimeter. As a passer.
But it wasn’t the first thing he noticed about the 6-foot-8-inch center during her first practice with the Aces.
“She’s very tall,” he said with a laugh. “She’s a very skilled basketball player, and she meshed with her teammates well.”
The 27-year-old Australian center completed her first practice of the season Tuesday, five days after the Aces acquired her from the Dallas Wings. She worked with a variety of lineup combinations during a light, informative practice, but mostly teamed with All-Stars A’ja Wilson and Kayla McBride and No. 1 overall picks Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young in what figures to be one of the WNBA’s most formidable starting lineups.
“I’m very lucky I have some good guards to tell me where to go,” said Cambage, who averaged 23 points, a league high, and 9.7 rebounds last season. “These girls are so lovely, so awesome and so hard working. It was really great to be out there.”
Laimbeer walked the team through several offensive sets in an effort to acclimate Cambage with her new teammates before the season starts. The Aces open Sunday against the Los Angeles Sparks at Mandalay Bay Events Center, and he said he expects her to be productive amid what he foresees as some inevitable confusion.
“She’ll be lost. She’ll be overwhelmed. New system. New place. New environment. A lot of pressure. That’s to be expected,” he said. “But she’s still going to go get buckets and still play hard. Still play a team game. She’ll be fine.”
Cambage said it felt good to practice again after what she deemed “a very stressful couple of weeks.” She played mostly inside, but has a reliable jumper with range beyond the 3-point line.
Wilson said she enjoyed integrating Cambage into the team’s system and thinks their chemistry will flourish as they continue to learn about each other.
“Liz is new to it. I’ve been through training camp, and I’m still new to it,” said Wilson, the reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year. “Just talking, I think it’s going to help us mesh a lot more. The chemistry on the court and off the court, just knowing where she wants (the ball).”
Cambage ruptured her Achilles tendon in 2014 and battled Achilles tendinitis during the WNBA offseason. But she said she felt good and shot jumpers for about 30 minutes after practice. The Aces plan to scrimmage Wednesday, and Cambage said she is eager to play in a game situation.
“She commands respect when she walks on the basketball court from what she’s done in her past. That’s already past everybody,” Laimbeer said. “Everybody knows what she can do. Now, she’s just has to go out and be able to do it given the time and getting her body in really good shape.”
Name, height, position
Kelsey Bone, 6-4, C
* Liz Cambage, 6-8, C
Sydney Colson, 5-8, G
Dearica Hamby, 6-3, F
* Kayla McBride, 5-10, G
Jaime Nared, 6-2, G-F
JiSu Park, 6-6, C
* Kelsey Plum, 5-8, G
Sugar Rogers, 5-9, G
Carolyn Swords, 6-6, C
* A’ja Wilson, 6-4, F/C
* Jackie Young, 6-1, G
Tamera Young, 6-2, F
* Denotes projected starter
12-player roster must be finalized by Thursday