Connecticut Adds One More Piece

By John Altavilla
Updated: February 6, 2010

UNCASVILLE, Ct. — The seven-year itch hit the Connecticut Sun hard last season.

A perennial playoff team waded listlessly through an injury-filled season, unable to generate the momentum that could have sustained a run to the postseason.

But that all seemed to end Tuesday. A wave of enthusiasm seems to have rejuvenated the franchise.

“It’s a rebirth,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “We had a team here that had a window of opportunity start to close on it [last season]. But now this is as good as I could have dreamed of.”

Tuesday, the Sun introduced free agent guard Kara Lawson, 28, who played seven seasons with the Sacramento Kings, a team that folded shortly after last season.

Lawson is a former Tennessee Volunteer, current ESPN analyst and Olympian, and one of the most experienced and dependable players in the WNBA.

“I never wanted to consider the opportunity to ever play elsewhere [other than Sacramento],” Lawson said. “But when teams came calling, Connecticut jumped out and it did for a number of reasons.”

Lawson immediately became one of its most charitable souls, exemplified by her first official act with the team, the donation of $5,000 to Special Olympics Connecticut.

“Ultimately, Kara’s signing is the perfect fit for both of us,” Sun general manager Chris Sienko said. “We hope she’ll eventually retire with us. That’s her goal. That’s our goal, too.”

Lawson will wear No. 20 and jump into the void left by the trade of Lindsay Whalen to Minnesota. She will team with former UConn All-American Renee Montgomery — acquired for Whalen — to form a mix-and-match backcourt that Thibault hopes will rev his offense’s engine.

For Montgomery, having the chance to play with Lawson somewhat lessens the blow of losing the number she wore with such distinction at UConn.

She will now wear No. 21.

“Hey, this is Kara Lawson we’re talking about,” Montgomery said. “What can you do? And even if Kara wasn’t here, Tan White was wearing the number and she’s older than me, too [White will wear No. 14]. It’s nice, though. I mean, just look at her.”

The signing of Lawson likely puts an end to the most profound offseason in team history.

First, they selected forward DeMya Walker from the roster of the defunct Monarchs.

“Remember, she started for five years on a playoff contender,” Lawson said of her former Sacramento teammate.

Then they pulled off the biggest trade in WNBA history, shipping Whalen and the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft (April 8) to Minnesota for Montgomery and the No. 1 pick.

That pick most likely will be UConn All-America center Tina Charles, the probable national player of the year.

“We have the No. 1 pick,” Lawson said. “It better be [Charles].”

And now they have Lawson, so clutch she scored 15 points (5-for-5) coming off the bench for the 2008 Olympic team to help beat Australia in the gold medal game.

“This is an exciting day for our franchise,” Thibault said.