Montgomery finding her spot off the benchJune 7, 2012
UNCASVILLE, Ct. - A year ago, Connecticut Sun Head Coach Mike Thibault asked guard Kara Lawson to take one for the team.
Although she had started eight games, he decided early on that Lawson would be more effective as a shooter coming off the bench.
At the time, Lawson was clear that she didn’t want to do that, questioning why anyone wouldn’t want to start, but she said it was more important to accept the coach’s decision and put the needs of the team before her own.
The decision paid off. Lawson had an outstanding year and was a leading candidate for the WNBA’s 6th woman award.
Lawson, a solid defensive player as well as a strong offensive threat, is now back in the starting lineup and Renee Montgomery, who has started at the point throughout her college career and for the majority of her three-year WNBA career, will play her fourth professional season coming off the bench as Lawson did last season.
“It’s O.K.,” Montgomery said prior to last week’s Lynx game. “I’ll do what the coach tells me to do. It’s different.”
The terse statement was unlike Montgomery’s normal public comments that are effusive, full of humor and informative.
At this point in the season, (5 games), Thibault looks like a genius.
Montgomery’s 14.6 points a game are second only to Tina Charles’ 22 and she’s averaging 3 assists, only one fewer than Lawson. More importantly, she’s averaging 26.2 minutes, nearly as many as any of the starters. Most games, Thibault has replaced Montgomery in the starting lineup with Danielle McCray or Allison Hightower, both more solid defensive players.
Thibault made the switch because he said Montgomery may get more scoring opportunities coming off the bench than as a starter when she would be in a lineup with two offensive post players like Charles and Asjha Jones. As a starter she didn’t need to take that many shots but coming off the bench, she’s expected to be a more aggressive scorer, he said. After 5 games, Montgomery’s 57 field goal attempts are third on the team behind Charles and Jones.
Thibault has the Red Auerbach philosophy of it’s not important who starts the game but who’s there at the end.
Montgomery seems to have accepted this attitude but is guarded about it when asked.
“Most starters start and finish the game,” she said. “At least I’m doing one. It would be terrible if I wasn’t starting or finishing.”
Montgomery said she’s sure the coaching staff knew they could count on her optimistic nature when she was put on the bench. “People are always asking me to do something for them,” she said. “’Renee, I can’t make this speaker’s appointment, can you do it for me?’” she said imitating the apparently frequent requests.
She said she prepares the same as she did when she started but now has a little time to assess the defense before entering a game – usually sometime halfway into the first quarter.
“I’m not going to change what I do because of what the coaching staff does,” she said. At the time of the switch she said, “I don’t try to make sense of it. It’s my job... I’m always going to work hard.”
The next test of that will be Friday at Eastern Conference rival Indiana.