Tulsa head coach and general manager Gary Kloppenburg has confirmed that Liz Cambage will not return to the Shock for the 2013 season, opting instead to play in China.
"She's not coming back to Tulsa," said Kloppenburg who received word from Cambage's agent in the last 48 hours. "Obviously we're disapointed. We would like for her to give us a shot. We are building for the future and a lot of our offense would run through her."
Cambage has inked a contract to play for Zhenjiang Chouzhou in China, the same team Cambage played for last year after she failed to return to Tulsa following the Olympics. The contract is said to be worth AU$500,000 (US$518,500), exclusive of the additional endorsements and marketing deals that could push her income upwards of one million dollars. Cambage, who was drafted No. 2 overall by the Tulsa Shock in 2011 and was anticipated to be a key part of Tulsa's push to reach the playoffs this coming summer, would have made around US$50,000 for the WNBA season.
"Money is a factor in our league, especially with foreign players," said Kloppenburg.
The Chinese season, which runs from October thru the end of January, conflicts with the WNBA playoffs, but would theoretically leave Cambage available to play in the U.S. during the regular season or report to China late if the Shock made the playoffs. However, the contract is said to contain an injury clause that would void the deal if she gets injured while playing in the WNBA.
The move comes as a surprise to many, as Cambage has never indicated she would not be returning to the WNBA, and has alluded to her return several times on Twitter. On the other hand, Cambage has created a strong impression through both words and conduct that she has mixed emotions about playing in Tulsa. Prior to the 2011 draft, Australian newspapers quoted her as saying she did not want to go to Tulsa and would rather play in LA. Cambage later characterized the reported remarks as taken "out of context" and has since expressed more positive sentiments about the city as well as appreciation for the support of Tulsa's fans.
However, this is now the third time Cambage has spurned Tulsa, as last year, after taking the first half of the season off to train with the Australian National Team, she then opted not to return to the United States after the 2012 Olympics, missing two scheduled flights before finally citing a need for rest.
Cambage did play for Tulsa in 2011, averaging 11.5 points and 4.7 rebounds a game while shooting 51.1 percent from the field in her rookie season. She ranked third on the team in scoring, but did not prove to be the immediate impact player many had hoped for, and was ultimately reduced to coming off the bench. Cambage made her biggest splash during the Olympics, playing well for Australia and showing she could handle international play at the highest level, as well as throwing down the first dunk in women's Olympic basketball history against Russia.
If Cambage decides to return to the WNBA, she must honor the two remaining years on her contract with Tulsa, unless traded.
Editor's Note: Dave D'Agostino contributed substantially to the reporting of this story.
- The Shock absorb the loss of Cambage, build for the future
- Cambage bails on Tulsa for remainder of 2012