LAS VEGAS -- Aces center Liz Cambage has seen a lot of the world through basketball. But her mind can quickly race off to where she still yearns to visit.
"I want to spend a couple of months going through the Amazon," Cambage said. "I've never been to Mexico. Sri Lanka ... India ... there are so many places I need to cross off my bucket list. There is a life out there I still need to live."
Yet for now, Las Vegas is home away from home for Cambage, who will represent the Aces along with teammates A'ja Wilson (a captain, but not playing due to injury) and Kayla McBride, plus coach Bill Laimbeer at Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).
Friday night at Mandalay Bay resort, Cambage will be a DJ for a concert/beach party for fans featuring Snoop Dogg and Iggy Azalea. There is no real beach here in the desert, nothing like where Cambage grew up in Australia. None of her three WNBA stops -- Tulsa, Dallas and Las Vegas -- bears much resemblance to her real home. But Vegas seems to be the best fit.
"I think it definitely is. I'm already thinking about coming back here next season," Cambage said. "On the court, off the court, I'm loving it here in Vegas."
Cambage says that in one breath and sincerely seems to mean it. But then she also says, "This year, I will spend maybe a month and a half at home [in Australia]. I'm sick of my career putting a strain on my relationships. There are so many other things that come with basketball. I'm more than an athlete."
Both sentiments are true. Part of Cambage relishes this opportunity to play in a still-new WNBA city, with a team that's currently tied for first place and is in the mix to contend for a title. And part of her longs for other global adventures and pursuits of other passions like music, plus the chance to stay contentedly planted at home when she feels like it.
People didn't know all the charms and challenges of Cambage when she was drafted No. 2 by Tulsa in 2011. They knew she was 6-foot-8 with talent and great potential, but also that she was just 19 years old and not entirely keen on her WNBA destination.
What we've learned since then is she is her own woman, one who has stepped away from the WNBA (this is just her fourth season in the league) and basketball in general. Not just when injuries have forced her to, but also when she felt that mentally she needed to. We've also seen that when she is playing at her best, she's a legit superstar.
"There can be moments that you just can't stop her," said Seattle coach Dan Hughes, whose team was on the receiving end of Cambage's 15-point, 12-rebound, six-assist, three-block performance Tuesday. "You certainly can't stop her one-on-one. You better have some plans that include congestion and getting in her way."
Last year -- her first season back in the WNBA since 2013 -- Cambage was a strong MVP contender. This year, playing alongside Wilson, her scoring average is down (15.8 PPG from 23.0) but she's contributing in multiple ways (8.6 RPG, 2.6 APG).
"I think that she's a different player today than she's ever been because she's lost so much weight," Laimbeer said. "She is relying on her skills more, so she's going through a transition period. And she's even more skilled than I thought she was."
Cambage doesn't follow the standard athlete playbook of not revealing weakness -- or not revealing much of anything, for that matter. At the same time, though, it would be a mistake for even Cambage's most ardent and attentive fans to think they know everything about her. Her openness shouldn't be misread as total transparency.
"There is still a whole lot about myself I keep private," Cambage said. "People may think I put my whole life out there, but I show what I want to show. I don't think you would totally understand me unless you were on the team with me."
Cambage has shared her struggles with depression and anxiety in interviews and on social media. She's been honest about feeling that basketball sometimes has been as much a trap for her as it is a treasure. She's certainly not asking anyone to feel sorry for her, though, or to even understand all of it.
"Sometimes it's the people with the biggest smiles that have the darkest shadows behind them," Cambage said. "The main thing to remember is that everyone's got stuff going on, so be kind to everyone."
If you ask her Aces teammates, they say that the Cambage who at times can seem consumed by her emotions on court, is, in fact, always reachable.
"There are moments where she's upset or in her head, or being a little 'Liz' ... but then when you talk to her in a timeout, she's receptive to feedback," guard Sydney Colson said. "She's not one of those people who just says, 'I don't want to listen to you.' She's doing all she can for us, and she wants everybody to be great."
As for her own greatness, that isn't a huge motivating factor. It's not that Cambage isn't fully committed to playing hard or to winning. Just watch her play to know that. But she won't give ground on protecting and nurturing herself as a person just to build a resume full of accolades. She's climbed out of some deep wells where she felt neither physically nor mentally healthy.
"After the Rio Olympics, I took a year and a half off," she said, "and I remember a coach of mine asked me, 'What are you doing?' I told him I needed time off, and he laughed in my face and said, 'You can't do that.'
"But I came back better. I think athletes are scared to do that. But when writers or artists hit a creative block, what do you do? Just stare at your craft, waiting for something to happen? Or do you step back and refresh, get away and reset?"
Admittedly, the clock ticks on the productive span of an athlete with an urgency that can't be denied. Cambage isn't denying it, though. She's just not letting it control her life.
"I'm giving basketball my all for the next couple of years," said Cambage, who will be 28 in August. "But after the Tokyo Olympics ... we'll see."
Laimbeer gets this. Some may think as a former NBA player and longtime coach, he adored playing basketball. But, actually, he says he didn't.
"It hurts to play. It takes a toll on your body, but it pays well," he said, chuckling. "And when I played, I was always going to try to win. Liz does that, too. She has pride that will carry her through. But, ultimately, I think she plays for the money, and there's nothing wrong with that.
"She's in a very good spot right now here in Las Vegas. I told her what it would be like here, and she didn't understand at first. Now that she's here, she fully understands it."
In just their second season since the franchise moved from San Antonio, the Aces already have an invested fan base that loves Cambage and the rest of the team. Owner MGM Resorts International has done a robust job of promoting the Aces, giving them a higher profile than most WNBA teams have in their cities.
It was known that the place Cambage had long wished to play was Los Angeles. But now that she's in Las Vegas, a centerpiece player for the home crowd to cheer at the WNBA All-Star Game and throughout a season of exciting possibilities, this all feels right.
And Cambage says that even if she could change anything about the past, including the hardest moments, she wouldn't do it.
"Those times sent me into a spiral. I was so caught up in myself, I didn't want to deal with it or even live anymore," she said. "But I believe it took me getting to the lowest part of my life to really find my strength.
"It made me who I am, and I have no shame in my emotions and what I feel. That's just life -- it's about living and feeling and going through things."