Is there a place for Renee with the Sun?


The last remnants of practice Thursday and there is Kelsey Bone, one of many Connecticut Sun players who stayed late, shooting free throws. Bone's facial expression, more serious than an assassin, suggested that now just wasn't the time. Hah. Not with Renee Montgomery around. And sure enough, here came Renee, walking in front of Bone, behind her, next to her, singing, dancing. Irritating.

"Bones! Bones!" Montgomery hollered. And Renee went Renee, awash in streams of consciousness wrapped in word spasms. Bystanders cracked up. Bone's facial expression went from amusement to annoyance back to amusement.

"Ain't gonna be quiet in the gym!" Montgomery said, alluding to the method of her maddening, trying to add some pressure to Bone's free throws.

This is our Renee. Maddening but lovable. All in one act. Our Renee, the one of whom UConn's Chris Dailey once said, "Renee has a gift. I don't think there has been a day when she's not been happy. The more I get to know her, the harder it's going to be to let her go."

Montgomery came back to Connecticut in 2010, the trade that sent beloved Lindsay Whalen to Minnesota and the No. 1 pick, who became Tina Charles, to the Sun. Montgomery has been a little all over the place in her time with the Sun. She's made a number of huge shots late in games. And she's been torched on defense enough times to drive Mike Thibault - and now Anne Donovan - to the liquor cabinet.

Funny thing you notice on the stat sheet this season, this young season that might turn dire pretty soon if the Connecticuts don't mix in a win or two. Montgomery, among the most seasoned players on a green roster, is averaging but 12.7 minutes per game.

Which invites the question: Why?

There is ample evidence suggesting Montgomery's fortitude with the ball. But her offense, like the Old Gray Mare, ain't what it used to be. Since her All-Star season in 2011 - as the league's Sixth Woman of the Year, a role at which she initially balked - her shooting percentage has declined. This season, brief sample size notwithstanding, she is shooting 31 percent from the floor and 22 from three-point range.

"It's getting to know new personnel somewhat for Renee, when to attack and when to pull back and set somebody else up," Donovan said Thursday. "It's a dilemma. Renee has done a better job distributing the ball and running the offense better than Alex (Bentley). Renee has really heard me that I want to get Allie (Hightower) shots and KT (Katie Douglas) shots. I appreciate she's trying to distribute a little more. Alex is a better defender. We all know what Renee can do when she catches fire, but we haven't seen that in a while."

Donovan, who started Hightower at the point in Minnesota to combat a bigger lineup, said the point guard position "remains a question."

Which fits, since Montgomery has questions.

"(Scoring) wouldn't be where my concern lies," she said, alluding to the bigger question of more playing time.

More Renee: "At this point, I honestly don't know the path to getting more time. I'm just going to keep coming to practice and making sure I'm ready. I can't concern myself with the path. I don't even know the path myself. She (Donovan) says defense is the path, but honestly, I don't know what the path is."

Sure sounds as though coach and player need to sit and chat. Because the Sun need her. This is a team with a chronic shooting disorder. Montgomery can get hot enough to have to stop, drop and roll. Montgomery says she's a rhythm player and needs to be out there. Donovan believes that to be out there, what you do without the ball counts, too.

This just in: They are both right. They need each other. Besides, Montgomery, who earns a maximum salary, would be hard to trade right now. Max salary players without corresponding production merit an absorbing, "thanks but no thanks."

This isn't saying the Sun are shopping her. It is saying that there's a commodity here. She earned her money.

Renee on herself: "I think my kindness has been my gift and my curse. When Coach T was here, we needed something off the bench. Not many players (Montgomery was a former starter) would have allowed that to happen. Sometimes my kindness is used against me. I'm not going to cause a fuss about stuff."

It would be a hoot if Bone, playfully harassed by Montgomery, makes a couple of late free throws to seal a win tonight, a win the Sun need more than most of us need a lung. Or better yet: If Montgomery gets 15 points and six assists. They need her.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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