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Montgomery isn't comfortable sitting

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published May 25. 2012 4:00AM
Sean D. Elliot/The Day
Renee Montgomery, front, and Tina Charles of the Sun throw souvenir basketballs to the fans after Sunday's 92-77 victory over the Liberty at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Former UConn star is coming off the bench

Mohegan - It was a different Renee Montgomery after Thursday's practice, certainly not the chatty, jovial player that UConn/Connecticut Sun fans have grown to appreciate.

Montgomery made it clear through uncharacteristically abrupt answers that she is not happy with her new role this season: coming off the bench. She'll do so again tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena, where the Sun (2-0) play the San Antonio Silver Stars at 7 p.m.

And while Sun coach Mike Thibault has saluted Montgomery for her jolts of energy, scoring and effort, his erstwhile starting point guard would rather have her old job back.

"It's different," Montgomery said of the new role.

When asked how it's different, Montgomery replied, "I'm not starting."

Thibault delivered the news to Montgomery before the Sun's season opener last weekend at New York. Kara Lawson, equally unhappy with the same role off the bench a season ago, was named the starter.

"It was very matter of fact," Thibault said. "I explained to (Montgomery) what I wanted her to do and she said 'OK.' That was the extent of the conversation."

Montgomery admitted she was surprised at the news, but said, "I didn't say one word throughout the conversation. Just 'OK.'"

Montgomery, who made the All-Star team a year ago, combined for 26 points and nine assists in two games last weekend. Thibault was ebullient in his praise of Montgomery and Allison Hightower's bench contributions.

"It was huge," Thibault said. " Renee might have a chance to get more scoring opportunities than she may have as a starter. When you start as a point guard and you have two leading post scorers (Tina Charles and Asjha Jones), you don't need that person to take as many shots. But when you come off the bench, you need an aggressive scorer.

"Look what (Jason) Terry (of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks) and (James) Harden (of the Oklahoma City Thunder), do for their teams," Thibault said. "We can actually get a pick-me-up from the bench as opposed to 'hold the fort.' A lot of teams, with their bench, it's 'don't blow what we did already.'"

Thibault's bouquets didn't do much for Montgomery. When asked if his praise meant anything to her, she said, "I don't know about these questions you're asking me."

Later, when asked how she's making sense of the decision, she said, "I don't try to make sense of it. It's my job. I just come and do my job. I'm never going to not play hard."

Thibault dealt with the same issue last season. He thought that Lawson, who began the season as a starter, would help the team more as the first player off the bench.

Lawson said last year, "To say there is a desire to want to (come off the bench)? I will not sit here and lie and say that. Maybe other people will lie and say it's OK, but not me. Why would you want to admit that's your goal? I don't understand that.

"It's irrelevant if you agree with the coach's decision or not. The bottom line is we all need to play and contribute to the team. The second a decision negatively impacts the way you play, that's when you are not focusing on the bigger picture."

• Guard Tan White, who missed the games over the weekend with a concussion, practiced Wednesday and Thursday. Thibault said he's not sure if White will play tonight. "She doesn't have very many reps doing anything for a while," Thibault said, "and she's not anywhere close to being in game shape."

m.dimauro@theday.com

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