Considered the consummate professional, Kara Lawson’s stellar reputation as a tough-minded leader was one of the things Anne Donovan was counting on to help the transition in her first year as coach of the Connecticut Sun.
But nothing has gone the way Donovan hoped this season. And this season has easily been the hardest in Lawson’s career.
Coming off her greatest season in the WNBA, Lawson’s desire to build upon it has been sabotaged by back misery and a troublesome bone bruise to a knee. She has played in only nine games for the Sun this season, just six as a starter.
Still, injuries come and go; all a part of the matrix of being a professional athlete. Lawson knows that and understood how to react.
Then two weeks ago something happened which she could not prepare for. Her father, Bill, fell seriously ill in the family hometown, Alexandria, Va.
Lawson, extremely close to her family, petitioned the Sun for personal leave and left the team immediately after its road game in New York on July 20. And she did not return until early this week.
But in the interim, Lawson says she heard various rumors about why she was gone, insinuations about marital trouble or dissatisfaction with Sun management. She says the accusations deeply hurt her.
“People have been saying the team didn’t want me here, sent me away, things like that, (even) marital problems,” Lawson said. “People have been saying some other things, not the truth. I just want the fans to know.
“Somebody asked me if I was having marital problems. They thought that was the ‘family issue.’ People speculate and I understand it’s people’s jobs to speculate. I just think a ‘family issue’ is personal.
“But after I was questioned about my professionalism and about what I bring to the team, I thought it was important to share something very personal to myself and to my family.”
Before she could finish that sentence Wednesday, Lawson, normally so stoic, broke down in tears because of the situation with her father. Lawson said doctors first termed her father’s condition as grave and told her to prepare herself for the possibility that he might not survive.
But her father made it through those difficult first few nights and she said he is doing better, fighting “but he still has a long way to go.”
Lawson likely would still be with her family had the Sun not asked her to return. In the midst of a difficult struggle to make the playoffs, Connecticut announced Tuesday that all-star Allie Hightower and Kelly Faris, its first-round pick from UConn, would miss the remainder of the season because of injuries.
“”I think it was the right thing to do [to let her leave the team]“Lawson said . “My dad was in critical condition, grave condition. … If the team hadn’t let me go, I would have left, to be frank. They just told me when I had to come back.”
“I would rather be with my family to be honest,” she said. “We all have jobs and we all have places we need to be.”
Lawson, who has not played since July 19, was doubtful for Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Lynx. She was at practice Wednesday but just rode the bike and took some shots.
“I really have done anything for three weeks,” she said. “And I don’t think playing is going to help me right now. I don’t think it’s possible for my mind to be on something else. I’ve been spending 14 hours every day in the hospital.
“I don’t think playing basketball is going to take my mind off it.”