I have made it clear before that I am glad I am not a part of the selection committee for USA Basketball. How do you decide on 12 players from a pool of WNBA and NCAA stars that are so close in skill level, competitiveness and all the intangibles? I did not envy the task at all; in fact even Coach Auriemma commented to me in Hartford - it's times like these he was glad there was a committee over him. Accordingly, I have not been critical of the selection process, even when Crystal Langhorne was omitted from the pool of players this fall.
However, with the final 12 in place for the FIBA World Championships, I'm going to go on record as wondering if the committee didn't make a mistake in leaving off Connecticut Sun guard Kara Lawson. A proven veteran, a player who did nothing to hurt her reputation as an extremely physical and aggressive competitor with the ability to hit the 3, Lawson's omission could be significant on a team with only three "legitimate" guards.Going back to the days of Cheryl Miller, Teresa Edwards, Cynthia Cooper and beyond, the three letters on the front of the jersey USA have been so important to women's basketball and to its players. It's difficult for a lot of fans to understand (especially those of only the men's game) but a World Championship means more to these players than a WNBA title, or in many cases, an Olympic gold medal. Kara talked to me about how important it is to her to wear the USA uniform.
What makes the USA team so much different than just an All-Star team is the need, the absolute necessity, of people knowing and understanding their roles on the team. In some cases it's to be the scorer (Taurasi, for example), or the distributor and stabilizer (Bird), and of course the inside presence (Fowles). In others, it's to do whatever is needed. To handle the ball, play defense, knock down the open three, and just be on the sideline screaming and yelling. In the last Olympics, no one did this better than Kara Lawson. This is where I think she will be missed on the World Championships team.
With the folding of the Sacramento Monarchs, Lawson was put in the position of playing for a new team for the first time in her WNBA career in 2010. The Connecticut Sun made numerous roster changes, adding not only Lawson, but Rookie of the Year Tina Charles, high draft choice Kelsey Griffin and USA pool member Renee Montgomery. Expectations were high for this team, and while they put up a won-loss record that would have put them in 2nd place in the west, they did not make the playoffs. I talked to Kara about the Sun, 2010 and the future.
In the end, it appears to me at least, that Kara Lawson simply fell victim to the unfortunate numbers game that is USA Basketball in 2010. From the beginning of the selection process, coach Geno Auriemma has emphasized and talked about repeatedly the need to rebound, rebound, rebound. It is not Kara's fault Candace Parker needed shoulder surgery, nor is it her fault that Sylvia Fowles' status is still questionable due to recent knee surgery. What is clear though is the selection committee felt the need to load the roster with possibilities in the post (Jayne Appel, Candice Dupree, Asjha Jones) while hoping that the threesome of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Lindsay Whalen, perhaps with some help from Angel McCoughtry and Tamika Catchings, can handle the guard positions. Nine games in 11 days is an extensive workload, and at the end of that time we will see if the committee made a good decision. Personally, I'd like having Kara Lawson on my squad if USA is on the front of the uniform.