The Wizards play the Kings on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET. One of the main story lines is whether Bradley Beal and/or Kelly Oubre are suspended due to a fight last Friday. But one of the storylines that may not get enough attention surrounds their color analyst, Kara Lawson. Sacramento may simply just be a northern California city to most of us, but for her, it’s kind of like a homecoming. Sure, Lawson’s a DMV’er, but let me explain.
Lawson started her professional playing career in Sacramento
Lawson was the 5th pick in the 2003 WNBA Draft to the Detroit Shock. However, she was traded to the Monarchs a few days later for Kedra Holland-Corn and a 2004 second round draft pick.
While in Sacramento, she played primarily as a 6th man for the Monarchs from 2003-2009 where she often backed up WNBA legend Ticha Penicheiro. Still, Lawson was a strong three point shooter for Sacramento, where she made at least 37.6 percent of her three point shots during her time there. She also was on the 2005 Monarchs team that won the WNBA Finals over the Connecticut Sun.
Though Lawson was never a regular starter for Sacramento, she still was named an All-Star in 2007. She was also part of the 2008 USA Basketball women’s national team that won the gold medal in the Olympics.
You can see a 2009 video of Lawson reminiscing her early years a professional basketball player from the WNBA’s YouTube channel.
Lawson spent part of her early broadcasting career in Sacramento
Lawson is a well-known former WNBA player in her own right. But NBC Sports Washington hired her as the Wizards’ color analyst for her broadcasting experience. During the 2017 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball tournament, Howard Megdal of The Summitt and the New York Times interviewed her in the video above. In the video, Lawson talked about how she developed her broadcasting career since 2004 when she started working for ESPN during WNBA offseasons.
The four letter network wasn’t her only spot though. Lawson also spent time with the Sacramento Kings’ local broadcasting affiliate as a broadcasting analyst. She also gave a revealing insight at the 7-minute mark of the video.
Lawson considered a coaching career while she was a young broadcaster. While working on Kings broadcasts, she mentioned that she wanted to attend Kings practices to better understand their practices, but the coaching staff at the time was reluctant to do so.
Eventually, the Kings allowed her to watch practice from a media-access one-way window where she couldn’t listen to what coaches and players were saying. Though Lawson ultimately went with the broadcasting route and is happy with it, she stated that WNBA players are an untapped resource of potential job candidates for NBA jobs due to a lack of opportunities to things like attending practice.
The Kings have gone through many head coaches since the mid-2000’s, most of whom weren’t good fits for a number of reasons. But the Kings have become a team known for having women on the coaching staff though they weren’t the first.
They hired Hall of Fame player Nancy Lieberman as an assistant coach in the 2015-16 season on George Karl’s staff, and stayed in the 2016-17 season after Dave Joerger was hired. Sacramento also brought on former Seattle Storm head coach Jenny Boucek as a player development coach just a week ago. Coincidentally, Boucek was also the head coach of the Monarchs from 2007 to 2009 and coached Lawson during that time.
Lawson met her husband in Sacramento
Damien Barling is Lawson’s husband. She met him while working in Sactown soon after the Monarchs won their WNBA championship. They married in April 2008. Barling is a radio broadcaster in the Sacramento area for KHTK-AM radio. Barling also interviewed Lawson on his show right after she was officially named as the color analyst.
When most of us watch Sunday’s Wizards game, most of us are hoping that Washington won’t lose to the Kings, in part because of the fight last Friday. But for Lawson, this game is kind of like coming full circle as she returns to her stomping grounds as a young professional player and broadcaster.