Breakfast With Lobo and Lawson at the Final Four
TAMPA – Rebecca Lobo and Kara Lawson were fun to watch on the court, in Lawson’s case still fun, and are darn good to listen to while holding court.
ESPN’s announcing duo, both nattily attired in pink including Lobo’s wristwatch borrowed from her daughter, set up shop in the dining room Saturday morning at the Amalie Arena site of the Women’s Final Four, and let loose on a variety of topics ranging from playing for Geno, to how good is this UConn team, Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck, who has the best chance to beat UConn and well, you get the picture.
Lobo even got a good laugh out of being reminded of a comment from Alex Wolfe of Sports Illustrated in 1995 when he described her as “glacially slow.’
“He’s a good friend of my husband (Sports Illustrated writer Steve Rushin) and I tell him that I was faster than frozen water,” laughed Lobo.
Much of the attention this season has been focused on the improvement of point guard Moriah Jefferson who has morphed into an All-American this season (12.3 ppg, 60 percent shooting), maturing into the orchestra leader with road-runner speed and a lights-out shooting touch.
“This year when you watch (UConn) play and you see them practice, it’s her team she runs it and she directs and she tells people where to get to,” said Lawson. ‘ She notices little nuances that some point guards never notice. She continues to grow and gets everybody to where they should be. Stewart is their best player but when I watch them play it is her team.”
Lobo pointed to Jefferson’s growth since UConn’s loss to Stanford early in the season.
“Earlier in the season I was watching some film of her from the Stanford game where she was shooting so poorly (2-for-7). She was getting shots and she was wide open and there was hesitation, she would just not shoot,” said Lobo. “You could just see the wheels turning to now, she’s pointing to a player to come and give her a screen. Pre-Christmas to post-Christmas you don’t usually turn a corner like that there might be a gradual progression. It must be what she had for Christmas dinner.”
No UConn discussion is relevant without talking about Stewart who recently earned Most Outstanding Player Award honors in the Albany Regional with a couple of Stewie gems – 31 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in just 31 minutes in a 91-55 destruction of Texas and 23 points and 16 boards in an 82-66 win over Dayton
Stewart is now in the highest of rare discussion air. The best ever? Always arguable and certainly speculative at this point with a season plus to go. But, the tongues are wagging.
“If she goes on and wins four National Player of the Year Awards, and UConn wins a fourth straight title how can you look at it any other way,” said Lobo. “It’s all about winning.”
On to Geno. He held his own court this week and took the men’s game to task for being unwatchable and said something similar about the condition of the women’s game. Neither Lawson nor Lobo disagree, pointing to a number of steps the college game could take.
“The annual Geno Final Four declaration,” said Lawson. “I get tired of doing some of these games in the 40s. I do men and women’s games and it is brutal. It’s tough to sit through the game and try and find something interesting to say. Offense is a problem of the college game both men’s and women’s.
“As somebody who plays in the pro game I like a lot of the pro rules. I can’t imagine playing college now with some of the restrictive rules. “
“Some parts of the women’s great are great but can it be better, yeah,” said Lobo. “And there’s a model right here in the WNBA, just some of the rules. Last year was the first year we had the 10-second backcourt rule? How did that happen? Now make it eight seconds. Play four quarters. Advance the ball in the last minute with timeouts.
“Near the end of the women’s game in the WNBA if you foul while time is out it is two shots and the ball. Not in college. It’s 1-and-1 and you pick out the shooter and foul. Let’s make some changes.”
There was more. Who has the best chance to beat UConn if they play well? Notre Dame according to Lobo because they have the best offense."
And should UConnn run the table where goes the team rank? High, but not the best.
"To me (UConn) is not in the top because they're not great defensively compared to other UConn teams,'' said Lawson. "Defensively they're No. 1 in the country in defense but it is much easier to get into the paint. They do lead the mations in blocks but that is because they have more players going to the paint. I don't know if they are better than last year's team."
Don't get Lawson wrong. She likes this team and its defense. We're comparing life at the defensive mountaintop.
Has Geno mellowed? – You needed to be here for this 10-minute dissection. Lobo says no and pointed to his dressing down of Kiah Stokes before the Texas game. “I couldn’t figure out why Kiah and shy now,’ said Lobo. “Then I realized, he needed her to play well against Texas. He is a master of that.”
As for the rest, talk to me privately. But know this. – a good chunk of the morning spent with Lobo and Lawson is something everybody should get to do once. .