Since there is still much for Anne Donovan to do getting accustomed to coaching the Connecticut Sun, it gives her some relief to know that at least a solid veteran core is in place.
And what Donovan can feel most comfortable about is having someone like Kara Lawson around.
Now in her 11th season, there isn’t much Lawson hasn’t seen, hasn’t done or hasn’t attempted to do. That’s why the Sun signed her to a three-year extension that will run through 2015.
“Anne just knows that I get it and that comes from being in this league for 11 years,” Lawson said. “She understands who I am as a player. And as a result, there is a lot that we don’t need to discuss. I get it and she gets it.”
Coming off perhaps her greatest season in the WNBA in 2012 (a career-high 15.1 scoring average and 74 three-pointers), Lawson is ready to go again. She scored 10 points in just 12 minutes, 17 seconds in the Sun’s 83-74 preseason win over New York on Saturday, shooting 4-of-7 with four assists.
“I’ve seen Kara [play] a lot of television, but haven’t seen her play live [since the 2009 WNBA season],” Donovan said. “This first week in camp has reinforced in my mind that she is such a pro. The way she approaches the game physically, mentally and emotionally [demonstrates that].
“She is a great leader and I have always loved her for those reasons. It’s the intangibles she possesses that may even be more impressive than the skill level she shows by making threes and by playing solid defense.”
During Donovan’s tenure as coach of the 2008 Olympic team she said tried to stay away from the business of selecting the team. But she made an exception for Lawson, lobbying hard for her inclusion, even though she knew Lawson would sit on the end of her bench.
“Coaching her now is different for me,” Donovan said. “In Beijing, she was at the one cheering everyone on, keeping everyone together. And she we gave her minutes, she did everything so well. But this is a different situation. She is a leader of this team. It’s nice to have her at the helm of the team.”
Lawson repaid the program by scoring a team-leading 15 points in its gold medal game win over Australia.
Lawson, Montgomery and Allie Hightower are the center of Connecticut’s backcourt. All score and shoot well from the outside. Montgomery, after just two days in camp, played 29 minutes Saturday, by far the most on the team.
“We have to hit the ground running,” Donovan said smiling.
Hightower, one of the most improved players in the WNBA last season, scored 12 points in just under 22 minutes, making 4-of-5 from the field with two three-pointers.
“Allie Hightower is the player I am most impressed with,” Donovan said. “Being away from the league for three years [coaching Seton Hall], I really hadn’t watched her play a lot. I thought she’d be a nice player. But I had no idea how much her hard work would pay off.
“She never takes possession off. She so involved on both ends of the floor. It’s so hard to take her out of the game. She is stroking it outside and she is so unselfish. She must have given up six open shots [on Saturday].”
But it’s Lawson who promises to provide calm when things go astray. And even though it’s been five years since she played for Donovan there remains an unspoken understand of what is expected and what should be done.
“It’s a little different atmosphere [with the Sun],” Lawson said. “In the USA setting, everyone is a great player and everyone is, in a way, the leader of their own teams. And Anne is not someone who gushes praise on you every day. She just tells you what she is all about and you do it [what she asks]. That’s pretty much it.
“Anne and I do communicate very well, but I wouldn’t go so far to say that we speak more than she does with any other player. It’s not like she is seeking me out to ask me my opinions on things.”