Q+A: Kara Lawson
SLAMonline catches up with the crafty Connecticut Sun PG.
by Christian Mordi / @mordi_thecomeup
“Let’s get better every day” is one of the mantras of a winner. Kara Lawson proves that statement true day in and day out. The WNBA champion doesn’t hang her hat on previous accolades, but focuses her energy to pushing herself and her teammates to new heights each day. Forward progression is on her mind. It’s no surprise she is so successful on and off the court.
Lawson is having a career year running the point for the Connecticut Sun. Her tenacious defense has infected the rest of the teammates, and her ability to mix it up offensively has made the Sun one of the best teams in the East at the half-way point.
SLAMonline got the chance to link up with the Former Lady Vol to discuss the growth of her teammates, why her style of play has been so successful this year, her time under legendary coach Pat Summit and more.
SLAM: Thanks for taking some time out today. I have been a huge fan of your game for years now.
Kara Lawson: Thanks for reaching out.
SLAM: You were an All-American and MVP of the WBCA all-star game, along with being chosen as the Naismith Prep Player of the Year. I know college coaches tried many ways to get your attention—any interesting recruiting techniques to try to sway you to their program? What made coach Summit and her program stand out to you?
KL: Sustained success. Tennessee has been at the forefront of women’s college basketball for so long. As a kid growing up I had always been a part of successful teams, and in college I wanted to continue that trend, yet be somewhere that would help me advance to a better player as well. My goal was to be a good player and not just stop growing when I got to college.
SLAM: One piece of advice Coach Summit gave you…
KL: I don’t know if it was one piece of advice, but she challenged you every single day to get better. She pushed you and continued to demand excellence. There was a certain level and standard that she demanded, and there was no let up, so you were forced to rise to that standard, and push yourself to be able to reach it.
SLAM: During the WNBA offseason, you did commentary for men’s and women’s college basketball games and the Sacramento Kings. On January 12, 2007, you were the first woman to work as a nationwide broadcast analyst for an NBA game. How pivotal was that to you in your career off the court? Can you go through the emotions that you went through on that day?
KL: I really didn’t know at the time. I really just love being around basketball. For me I was fortunate right out of college to get a chance to work for ESPN. I was 23 years old and starting my broadcasting career. I was also lucky to work for the Sacramento Kings and work with their broadcast team. I got the chance to get a ton of experience working the NBA at the local level. So that year I got to work NBA games it was a chance for me to refine my skills. Whether I am doing women’s, men’s, college—it’s all basketball. Slight differences in rules in rules with men’s and women’s, a little larger between the college and NBA levels. I think me being a player and being so close to the game gives me a good perspective as a broadcaster.
SLAM: For aspiring young people who would like to follow in your footsteps in that field, what advice would you give them, in regards to perfecting that craft? I know many would like to do it, but don’t understand the behind-the-scenes work in what you do.
KL: I think the biggest piece of advice I can give and I give a lot of young players who are in college that come up to me and say that what I do is something they would like to do, and they ask how can I get started is simple. As a basketball player, you want to be a great shooter you have to shoot. You want to be a good ball handler, you have to do ball handling drills, and broadcasting is the same way. A big part of it is getting the chance to do some games. Even if it is doing high school or college games. Any chance you get is a chance to work and get into the business. You don’t really come out the womb a broadcaster, you have to have some knowledge of the field you are covering and a solid work ethic. There is a lot of prep work that goes into it, but you have to get some experience doing some games on TV.
SLAM: You have been a steady force for the Sun this year, posting career highs across the board really. What do you feel has been some factors in your success this year?
KL: For any sport, I think one of the most important factors for success of an athlete is your health. You have to be healthy. For me I have been banged up the past three seasons, so I haven’t had the chance to play at 100 percent in years. You still play and you do what you can for your team at a given year, and every player has different limitations. It’s not an excuse it’s a reality. This is the first time in years I am healthy. The second thing is opportunity. You have to have the opportunity to play solid minutes. You also have to play a position that fits you the best. This is the first time in my 10-year career that I have gotten the chance to play point guard—to lead a team. I would say those are the two most dominant factors that I am playing the way I am.
SLAM: You ladies are on the verge of doing something special with this team with All-Everything Tina Charles down low. What do you feel has been the key or will be the key going forward to take this team to another level?
KL: I mean the reality of the situation is that we have to be able to execute in close games, which we are doing better this year. We have to be able to handle the playoff atmosphere. We are doing well right now absolutely, I am happy where we are through 19 games. The reality of this team specifically is that we have never won a playoff game, let alone a series, together. So to get ahead of ourselves and say we are going to this, or we are going to the finals, do we have those goals? Absolutely. But I think it is premature for a team that has never won a playoff game together to start skipping ahead too much. We are happy where we are after 19 games, but we have a lot of work to do if we have plans for a long postseason.
SLAM: You’re shooting over 50 percent from the field and 44 percent from behind the arc, and you’re living at the line this year. Do you think your ability to mix it up has been a factor in your success this year? You’re shooting 90 percent from there as well.
KL: When you are playing a ton of wing in an offense that is ball screen-oriented, sometimes you are standing outside a lot and settling for jumpers. This year I have the ball in my hands a lot more, so I am able to do some different things. I am looking to be more aggressive and to get to the basket.
SLAM: You have a month-long break, how do you plan to stay sharp during the break, and what are some things you would like to see changed and stay the same for this team, post-Olympics?
KL: For me I just treat it like the offseason. It’s a chance to improve and get better. Hitting the gym and making sure I stay fit. Just building off of the first half that we had as a team and that I have had as an individual.
SLAM: Is this the year for the Sun, and why.
KL: I don’t know. I can’t say I have a feeling this year, nor that I had a feeling when we won in ’05. I think if we can finish strong and put ourselves in a good spot going into the playoffs is key. The one things that has been pretty consistent with teams that have had good playoff runs is they find themselves playing their best basketball at the end of the year. We don’t want to look back at the first half and see we were 15-4 and say that’s when we were at our best. We need to make sure that happens in September.