Latest allegations cast larger cloud over Las Vegas Aces’ offseason

What an odd off-season for the Las Vegas Aces.

On the plus side, they’ve continued their first championship by adding future Hall of Famer Candace Parker and two-time champion Alysha Clark. From a basketball perspective, exchanges of Dearica Hamby – who was traded to make room for those moves – and youngster Iliana Rupert (waived on Monday) for Parker and Clark means an upgrade on both sides.

How they received these upgrades, however, is rightly under scrutiny.

The circumstances surrounding the Hamby deal, particularly how it was handled prior to the deal, are currently under investigation by the WNBPA. In a statement posted by Hamby on Instagram, she accused the organization of being “lied to, bullied, manipulated and discriminated against” about her pregnancy.

Attempts were made to provide further clarity on the investigation during Parker’s introductory press conference on Tuesday, which also included the opportunity for the media to ask questions of Nikki Fargas (Aces President) or Natalie Williams (Aces CEO) for the first time. Not only have these efforts been evaded, but they have been done so sloppily.

I’m no expert, but there’s certainly a better way of not commenting on a question than pausing said question and stating that the question’s topic isn’t available…while you can still see it on the Zoom call. At best, the approach created even more questions.

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There was another line in Hamby’s post that was worth following up on, especially now: “I’ve been promised things to trick me into signing my contract extension, which have not been kept.”

That could mean anything from a guaranteed role or a “we won’t trade you” pact to paid opportunities outside of basketball. We don’t know what that means, but it seems the WNBA would like to find out.

First reported by Howard Megdal from The NextThe WNBA is now investigating the Aces for possibly circumventing the cap by “making covert payment offers to both current players and free agents the team is pursuing.”

From Megdal’s report:

According to those familiar with the allegations, the alleged pattern the team followed typically involved a senior member of the Aces briefing the agent on a potential signing — either a free agent or an Aces player negotiating an overtime – At the end of the informed phone call between team and agent, the agent would receive a call with an offer of a certain amount of money from a certain preselected company. The effort would be negligible, according to the people familiar with the allegations.

If it’s true, it certainly would be Help explain how the aces were able to land Parker and Clark this season. Per Richard Cohen from Her Hoop Stats, Parker agreed to a one-year, $100,000 contract while Clark signed a two-year, $110,000 per season contract; Parker alone earned $195,000 last season, while Clark ($183,000) was not far behind.

It’s not uncommon to take a pay cut to join a competitor, and it’s worth noting that Parker gets another stream of income through her NBA work for TNT/NBA TV. Still, these are pretty big pay cuts. And after the Hamby Pledge allegations, it is understandable that the league would look into how the Aces ran their businesses.

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On my own, however, I find it increasingly difficult to get upset about it this Accusations.

On the one hand, rules should be followed. The specific allegations the Aces face have been laid out in the CBA. The W is serious about having a level playing field, which is highlighted by the $500,000 fine they imposed on the New York Liberty for charter flights ahead of last season.

On the other hand, Man These players deserve to make more money – and just be treated better – than they currently are. It’s a minor league – 12 teams, up to 144 players – that operates under a fixed cap. Roster slots are limited; Earning potential within the league is somewhat restrictive – and that’s without addressing how prioritization rules affect players.

It’s hard for me to be upset with an organization to, if true, find outside (read: money) opportunities for players within a system where they are underpaid.

I wasn’t mad at the Liberty at all for chartering flights for their players, and didn’t care much about the “competitive balance” argument that goes against it. Players deserve to fly private and owners who can’t or don’t want to spend enough to offer this service probably shouldn’t be in owner positions in my humble opinion.

Regardless of my feelings, the rules Are the rules. And finally, this is another cloud over what could have been an off-season for the ages for the defending champion. We’ll see how things develop.


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