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Adam Silver confident in WNBA, plans to be more involved

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NEW YORK — Adam Silver has been heavily involved with the WNBA since the start.

Now the NBA Commissioner plans to “redouble his efforts” after WNBA President Laurel J. Richie announced on Wednesday she was stepping down.

“I’m a true believer in this league,” Silver said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “I’ve been at it for 20 years, spent a lot of my time over the last 20 years largely behind the scenes, working on television deals, selling sponsorships, working on marketing. We can do more. It isn’t just management of the WNBA and NBA, we need the larger sports community to do more.”

Next season will mark the league’s 20th anniversary and Silver was there at the beginning, working with Val Ackerman and Gary Stevenson to help draft the business plan in 1996.

Silver said about six weeks ago he thought the WNBA “would have broken through by now,” which he said wasn’t meant to be a criticism of Richie.

“I’m sorry she’s leaving. She did an excellent job over the last five years, but there remains a lot of work to do,” he said. “Obviously, I made comments not so long ago about my disappointment. It was not about Laurel in any way, but where the WNBA stands in its 19th year as we go into its 20th year.”

Silver said he has talked to all of the league’s owners over the past few days since Richie informed him of her decision to leave.

“They are also 100 percent committed to continue to grow the league,” he said.

Connecticut Sun President and CEO Mitchell Etess echoed Silver’s thoughts.

“I’m not concerned at all about the timing of this,” he said. “The league’s in a great place. The ESPN contract, the quality of play is really good. With college basketball, more people follow the league. The folks at the home office are confident they will find someone who will continue this upward trend to get us to the next level.”

NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum will oversee the WNBA until a new president is hired. A search for the new league president will begin immediately.

“We will take however long it’s necessary to do a thorough process,” Silver said. “The discussions with Laurel happened over a very quick period. It was unexpected. We don’t have a secret list in the drawer.”

Richie took on her role as president in May 2011, becoming the first African-American to lead a major sports league.

“I will let others speak to the legacy. That’s a pretty big word,” said Richie, who made it clear the decision to leave was her own.

“I would say it was an amazing ride. … It’s been a pretty rich experience. I tend to put my heart and soul into it. That means when you choose to step down you do so without regret.”

In her five seasons at the helm, Richie led initiatives to improve the visibility of the league’s players.

She helped ensure a measure of financial stability for teams by completing an eight-year collective bargaining agreement with the players and extending a contract with ESPN through 2025.

The league closed out its 19th season with a stellar, five-game WNBA Finals in which Minnesota beat Indiana in a series that drew strong ratings.

“While I’m still in shock, I am thankful for what Laurel has done in her time with the WNBA,” said Fever star Tamika Catchings. “Wish her nothing but luck in her future endeavors.”

Despite its entertaining playoffs, the WNBA had its lowest average attendance in league history during the regular season. Some of that was due to San Antonio moving arenas while its normal home court was being renovated, and Tulsa announcing it was moving to Dallas in 2016.

Silver said the league’s attendance was his top priority going forward.

Richie had to deal with a lot this past year, including star Brittney Griner being arrested for domestic violence and her brief marriage and divorce from All-Star Glory Johnson.

Diana Taurasi sat out after being paid by her Russian team to skip the WNBA season. Candace Parker missed the first half to rest.

Richie also oversaw the purchase of the Los Angeles Sparks by Guggenheim Partners and Magic Johnson Enterprises in 2014.

“There have been a lot of things that happened on her watch and she did a great job guiding the league through them,” Etess said. “Based on the position of the league now, it’s a much more desirable job than it has been previously. The league’s in a great place, better off than it was five years ago.”

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AP source: Liz Cambage traded from Dallas to Las Vegas

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The Liz Cambage trade saga is finally over.

The 6-foot-8 Australian has been traded from Dallas to Las Vegas for Moriah Jefferson, Isabelle Harrison and the Aces’ first two picks in 2020, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the deal hasn’t been announced.

Cambage, who finished second behind Breanna Stewart in WNBA MVP balloting last year, said in January she no longer wanted to play in Dallas. Potential deals the past few weeks that never materialized had weighed on Cambage, who took to social media with emotional posts this week. Cambage is in Australia and is expected to get to Las Vegas this weekend.

The 27-year-old center set a league record last season by scoring 53 points against New York. She averaged 23 points and 9.7 rebounds last year.

The move gives the Aces a formidable frontcourt by pairing Cambage with rookie of the year A’ja Wilson.

Dallas receives a point guard in Jefferson and a talented post player in Harrison. Jefferson was the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft by the franchise when it was in San Antonio. She averaged 13.9 points as a rookie but injured her knee in 2017.

She was limited to just 16 games last season. Harrison was the No. 12 pick in 2015 by Phoenix, but missed her rookie season with a knee injury. She had a breakout year in 2017, averaging 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. She sat out last season because of a medical issue.

Cambage was the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft. She played that season and in 2013 for the Tulsa Shock but sat out in 2012 and again from 2014-2017. The franchise moved to Dallas in 2016. Cambage returned to the WNBA last season with Dallas and hit it off with Wings coach Fred Williams. Cambage took it hard when Williams was fired a few weeks before the end of the season. Williams is an assistant with the Sparks.

After last season, Cambage left the door open to not returning to the WNBA, citing the league’s low salaries. She excelled for Australia at last fall’s FIBA World Cup, helping the team earn a silver medal. Cambage told the AP at the World Cup she would take some time to decide whether she wanted to come back the WNBA.

Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DougFeinberg

Lynx star Maya Moore to skip ’19 WNBA season

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore has decided to skip the upcoming WNBA season, seeking more time to devote to her family and her faith.

Moore announced Tuesday on The Players’ Tribune website that she’ll sit out in 2019. She already had taken the fall and winter off from international competition. The five-time first-team All-WNBA honoree has helped the Lynx win four championships since her rookie year, 2011.

“The success that I’ve been a part of in basketball truly blows my mind every time I think about it,” Moore said in her post. “But the main way I measure success in life is something I don’t often get to emphasize explicitly through pro ball.”

Raised by a single mother with strong Christian beliefs, Moore has spoken often about her desire for a well-rounded life steered by biblical principles . She quoted from scripture in her brief essay and, without citing specifics, said she plans to invest time in “some ministry dreams that have been stirring in my heart for many years.”

Reforming the justice system has been a particular passion of hers , including a personal interest she has taken in the case of Jonathan Irons , who was imprisoned in Missouri in 1997 by what his supporters contend was a wrongful burglary conviction at age 16.

“I’m sure this year will be hard in ways that I don’t even know yet, but it will also be rewarding in ways I’ve yet to see, too,” Moore wrote. “I’m thankful to my Lynx family and others close to me who have been walking with me during this shift, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Last season was only the second time since Moore was drafted first overall that the Lynx didn’t reach the WNBA Finals. Moore was eighth in the league in minutes and seventh in points in 2018. She has missed one game in eight seasons, with career averages of 18.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

“We support her in this exploration and will continue to provide her the love and care she has always known from her Lynx family,” general manager and head coach Cheryl Reeve said in a statement distributed by the team.

Moore, who went to high school in the Atlanta area she now calls home, was given the franchise tag last month by the Lynx, preventing her from becoming a free agent. The 29-year-old, who won the WNBA Most Valuable Player award in 2014, expressed her fatigue — and her eagerness for some extended rest — near the end of the 2018 season, which saw the Lynx ousted in the first round of the playoffs. The league compressed the 34-game schedule by three weeks from the 2017 slate.

Moore was the top vote-getter for the All-Star game last summer in Minnesota, but she passed on the team captain responsibility that would have required her to draft from the 22-player pool. Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks took her place, joining Elena Delle Donne of the Washington Mystics in assembling the sides. Moore had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the exhibition to earn her third straight All-Star Game MVP award.

Moore also opted out of the Women’s Basketball World Cup, the first major event she wasn’t on the U.S. national team for since the 2008 Summer Olympics, which took place before the start of her sophomore season at powerhouse Connecticut.

The Lynx, too, are in flux following the retirement of five-time All-Star point guard Lindsay Whalen, who became coach at her alma mater, Minnesota. They start their season May 25 against Chicago.