Anne Donovan’s patience clearly wearing thin Sunday after Sunday’s 85-76 win for the Connecticut Sun over Atlanta at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Seldom does any coach – especially one with a WNBA title and Olympic gold medal – enjoy being asked about how and why they use – or don’t use – players. And that certainly was the case when Donovan was asked what’s been up lately with Renee Montgomery, now in her fifth season with the team.
“As I’ve told Renee, if Alex [Bentley] is in there and does well, Renee probably is not going to get an opportunity,” Donovan said. “That’s how it’s been. Whoever goes in there first, when they play well, they keep the opportunity [to play]. Same thing with Chiney [Ogwumike], same thing with (Kelsey) Bone. It’s not just Renee specific.
“Anybody else have any questions on that? You guys [the media] are looking for something … This is the game of basketball. People play based on production.”
Ok Anne, I think we get the point. It’s the coaches prerogative to play who she wants to play. And its the media’s prerogative to ask why.
But here’s another point:
In the three previous games, Montgomery had played just 15 minutes, including none in the team’s first win of the season, May 23 against Seattle. During last week’s road trip in Indiana and Chicago, which resulted in two defeats and featured a 4-for-25 performance from three-point range, Montgomery played seven minutes in Indiana and eight in Chicago. During those eight minutes, Montgomery was 4-for-5 from the field and scored 11 points.
After playing such a big role in the win Sunday – 18 points in 19 minutes – Montgomery was clearly happy. The former UConn All-American, who had made 210 three-pointers in her first four seasons with the Sun, has been admittedly curious about her role and why it has diminished. But she didn’t want to speculate why.
“Are you trying to get me in trouble?” Montgomery asked. “I don’t want to stir up trouble. I just want to let the way I play speak for itself. I’m not going to try to get into the who, what, where, when or why.
“I just want to work hard and give myself the best chance to be ready when my number is called.”
While Montgomery remains one of the Sun’s potentially potent offense players, it’s her defense and size that has apparently caused the coaching staff to stray.
“It’s very rare that an opponent specifically goes at me [challenges her defensively],” Montogomery. “But I was told that I haven’t caught fire, that I haven’t been making shots and haven’t been playing defense. So now it’s about me doing all of the above.”
Montgomery was inherited from the Mike Thibault era, which now features just four remaining players on the current roster – Montgomery, Kelsey Griffin, Allison Hightower and Danielle McCray.
This new roster is based on bigger guards with more defensive strength and reach. And Bentley, the former Penn State star, was specifically acquired by Donovan in the three-team trade that shipped Kara Lawson to Washington in the offseason.
“I’m looking at Renee for more offense,” Donovan said Sunday. “That’s Renee’s strength – her offense.”
Donovan was forced to shuffle her personnel Sunday because Griffin missed the game with a stomach disorder and the team was coming off back-to-back road games in Thursday and Friday.
She gave forward Kelsey Bone the start and then dipped more liberally into her bench, at least as it concerned Montgomery and Kayla Pedersen, who played nearly 15 minutes after getting just 31 in the previous six games
“Keeping Bone and Chiney [Ogwumike[ fresh, that’s where both the other posts [Pedersen and Kelley Cain, who played 9:35] got minutes,” Donovan said. “And both did a nice job by the way. Alex [Bentley] has been playing point very well, Renee [Montgomery] has been inching her way up there and then Allie [Hightower] got into foul trouble. So it was not really by design. I think by need and by necessity.”
Where and how Montgomery will fit into Donovan’s future plans remain unclear, which Montgomery seems to understand.
“I understand this is a different situation, but I know what I’ve accomplished in the past,” Montgomery said. “I spent the first four years of my career in the WNBA trying to prove myself. Last year was basically lost to injury.
“But I felt I was going to have to reprove myself this season, which happens sometimes after injuries, especially when you have a different coach. I’m just trying to make sure that I’m proving I belong here … It’s different, I admit. I’m technically considered a veteran now, and now I’m in a situation where I need to constant prove myself over and over again.
“I guess it’s good. I didn’t expect this. But I’m just going to do my best to stay ready, whether I play one minute or 40.”