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Sun's Lawson is in it for the long haul

Mohegan - Glances around Mohegan Sun Arena on game nights aren't complete now without spotting someone wearing a No. 20 jersey. Or holding up a sign in support of Kara Lawson, meaning that at least this much is true for fans of the Connecticut Sun:

They know a productive player when they see one.

And now they'll be seeing their favorite former Tennessee Lady Vol for three more years.

Lawson and the Sun announced a three-year contract extension over the weekend, very likely keeping Lawson here for the rest of her career.

A career that just keeps getting better, too. Lawson is averaging 14.5 points per game this season, including a 51 percent field goal percentage, team-best 43 percent 3-point percentage and 92 percent from the free throw line. Of all WNBA players who have attempted 90 3-pointers, only Maya Moore and Leilani Mitchell have a higher percentage.

"When I signed here, I didn't intend on going anywhere else," Lawson said Monday, after preparing for tonight's game against Tulsa at Mohegan Sun Arena. "I said this was my last stop. I knew enough of the organization and its reputation. There really wasn't much that went into the decision to stay. The feelings were mutual from my side and their side. It didn't take long to get something done."

Lawson and the Sun (16-5) lead the Eastern Conference by three games. Much of that falls on Lawson, who earned a spot in the starting lineup during training camp and has played like a first-team, all-WNBA guard.

"It's the leadership she's demonstrated," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "In pro sports, you always try to get maturity and skill level to converge for a couple of years. With Kara being healthier, it's all come together.

"Her teammates listen to her. People listen when you back up everything you say," Thibault said. "When you're not healthy, as she wasn't earlier on (when she signed here), you know what you're supposed to do but your body doesn't cooperate. Now, she's putting into action all the stuff she's wanted to do. Her teammates respect her for it. They've seen the time she's put in to get her body in tip top shape."

Thibault said the Sun have a "window of opportunity that's several years long," meaning he thinks they'll be a contender beyond this season. It's important, he said, to keep as much of the team together as he can, led by veterans Lawson and Asjha Jones, who recently signed an extension as well.

"To me this is the best franchise in the WNBA," Lawson said. "I was fortunate to play for one this caliber in Sacramento. They're professional top to bottom here. Ownership is at every game sitting courtside. The (Mohegan) tribe is involved on a daily basis, even if it's just to wish you luck.

"Then there's Mitchell," she said, alluding to team president Mitchell Etess, "who is always finding ways to make this a better experience. (Vice president and general manager) Chris (Sienko), Mike, Scott (assistant coach Scott Hawk), Bernadette (assistant coach Bernadette Mattox), everyone is professional. Look at the arena we play in and the fan support. You really notice how the great the support is here when you see other places on the road."

• Lawson will participate in the "Dash To The Finish Line 5K" Nov. 3 in New York City to raise money for The Pat Summitt Foundation. Her husband Damien Barling is running the full New York City Marathon the following day.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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