Kara Lawson: Sixth Man No More

Sacramento's Kara Lawson is in her sixth year in the WNBA. A former superstar at Tennessee, she has participated in USA Basketball, was an All-Star last season and is among the league's elite players.

Despite all of her success, Lawson had only started 17 games prior to this season. But with several roster changes and injuries to key players affecting the team, the well-respected sixth man of years past has assumed a starting role for all seven games thus far in 2008. WNBA.com caught up with Monarchs coach Jenny Boucek, starting point guard Ticha Penicheiro and Lawson herself to discuss the former Lady Vol's new role.

WNBA.com: Why was the decision made to put Kara Lawson in the starting lineup despite the fact that she was very productive in her role as sixth man?

Coach Boucek: She earned it. I am not a coach that does things based on the past. I am very present minded and like to give them a fair and objective shot at whatever. So I don't want to live in the past and I don't want to be stuck in the past, just because things were done a certain way or might have been best. I evaluated the lineup that I thought was best for the team this year and she was it.

WNBA.com: Has her starting role affected the team or the style of the play?

Coach Boucek: It is a little bit different, in some ways. Part of it, too, was Chelsea Newton and DeMya Walker were hurt. Chelsea had started the last couple of years that she has been here. She has not been able to practice fully and she is just not getting back. But we have changed our look a little bit with her in the starting lineup as opposed to Chelsea. I don't think our style has changed in any way shape of form. Our identity is very much the same.

WNBA.com: Has Lawson needed an adjustment period to get comfortable with her new starting role?

Coach Boucek:
Kara is so mentally tough. You could probably put her anywhere to do anything. She can probably do my job without any preparation, your job, the referee's job, the GM's job, the president of the WNBA's and she just fits right in because she has that gift.

WNBA.com: What is the difference with Kara owning a starting position?

Ticha Penicheiro: I think she was in a comfortable position on the bench. We all knew that she was capable of starting even in the past years. But she was the boost off the bench, the guy that came in with a lot of energy. Sometimes you appreciate that as your first sub. I don't think there is much of a difference. The only difference is that she starts versus not starting. I think her minutes are the same and her production is the same.

WNBA.com: Kara is a very vocal player and a hard worker. With many young players on the Monarchs' roster, does it help to have her on the floor at the beginning of the game in terms of leading the team?

Ticha Penicheiro: Definitely, she is somebody whose basketball IQ is enormous and we all respect her and what she has to say. She is very vocal but not only does she lead by words, but she leads by example. So we all take some pages out of her book, to know how to work hard.

WNBA.com: Is there a different mentality being a starter as opposed to a sixth man?

Kara Lawson: Yes, a little bit. Coming off the bench, your job is more to observe what is going on in the game and try to get a feel for a lot of things, how the other team is playing, how your team is playing, how the referees are calling the game. There are just a lot of things you can kind of get a read on before you go in. From a starting perspective, you have to come out and it is your responsibility for the first five minutes of the game to get your team off to a good start. And that is basically it. That is your goal, getting the team off to a good start.

WNBA.com: When you learned you would be a starter this season, was there a sense of accomplishment?

Kara Lawson: Not really. I have played the same amount of minutes and had a lot of minutes. We had a lot of injuries to our guards early on. So we are still not even in the rotation that we are going to be in. Two players that have started over me the last three years have been hurt and missed our first four games. So we are trying to work them into the rotation and get that going. How we are now is probably not how we are going to look at the end of the year. We are still kind of trying to work some things out.

WNBA.com: You are entering the veteran stage of your career. Do you think your role in the starting lineup helps you to utilize your leadership skills more?

Kara Lawson: It might. Just the focus I try to bring to the table everyday, that is what I try to get across to the younger players or any players. The things that I learned when I was a younger player came from established veterans, players that have had success in this league. I have had the opportunity to play with a lot of great players that have come through this league, through USA Basketball and through playing in this league for six years. When you are around great players for a long period of time, you have a chance to see what makes them great. I have learned a lot of lessons from those players. So for me, I just try and set a good example.