The Dallas Wings had some problems last season, according to head coach Fred Williams. Their names included Sylvia Fowles, Jonquel Jones, Tina Charles, and Brittney Griner.
The team had strengths, too, including All-Star Skylar Diggins, WNBA Rookie of the Year Allisha Gray, and intrepid power forward Glory Johnson.
On Monday, the franchise officially introduced a solution to its problems, one they also hope will enhance its strong points.
The Wings imported Liz Cambage, the Australian national team’s starting center.
In her introductory press conference, Cambage laughed about there not being “not too many 6-8 girls going on” in basketball. During the two seasons they’ve played at the College Park Center, the Wings have been painfully aware of that fact, because none of the game’s top-flight centers, 6-8 or otherwise, played for their side. That made stopping the rest of the league’s top post players a challenge. Williams noted that at times he had to send two and sometimes more defenders at the league’s top inside scorers. He hopes Cambage can improve that situation.
The center, he said, will be “a big factor for us, especially on the defensive end. Last year, I thought we suffered a little bit in transition defense when points were scored against us in some situations in halfcourt, getting inside the paint. With her size and ability to block shots, to intimidate people from taking shots, it’s only going to help the perimeter players even more to not go to the boards as much, but get more runouts going down the floor,” the Wings head coach explained.
The Australian should contribute on the offensive end as well. She averaged 23.1 points a game with Melbourne in Australia’s top league last season. But Wings General Manager Greg Bibb believes her presence will also make her teammates better, especially the talented group of perimeter players he’s assembled.
“With Liz in the middle, teams are going to have to play us a little more honestly on the defensive end, which will make more opportunity and more space for our perimeter,” he said. “We struggled a bit last year in terms of field goal percentage, and in particular three-point field goal, percentage, because we were played tighter than most. So I think it’s going to have a compounding positive effect having Liz on the court.”
“I like to open up the lanes for the guards,” Cambage said.
The Wings showed talent and resolve last season, but didn’t quite have the complete roster needed to compete for a championship. With all their key players returning, however, and a world-class player like Cambage filling the one glaring hole in the lineup, they could be poised to challenge for a title. Bibb was guarded with his language in proclaiming his team to be one of the league’s best, but he was clearly excited by what adding one of the world’s best players means for his unit.
“It’s hard to win,” he said. “Every team has talent. But when I look at our roster today, 1-12, I feel really good about where we stand. And I’m excited to add her [Cambage] to this young, talented core of players we have.”
The offseason is about solving problems. Last year, the team effectively addressed roster balance and outside offense. In 2018, they hope they’ve taken care of everything else.