NBA Saturday: Sessions Revitalizes Lakers
In the weeks leading up to the NBA’s trade deadline, there was plenty of talk about the Los Angeles Lakers making a blockbuster deal. The rumor mill was churning and many of the potential trades involved Los Angeles moving Pau Gasol. However, on the day of the deadline, the Lakers didn’t make a splashy move. They opted for two smaller deals, with their most notable acquisition being Ramon Sessions.
The 25-year-old point guard had been a back-up for the Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers, but seemed ready to start. Sure enough, through five games with the Lakers, Sessions is averaging 13.6 points and 7 assists. He is the best point guard that the Lakers have had in years and the offense is suddenly flowing.
Last night against the Portland Trail Blazers, Sessions recorded 20 points and 11 assists. The last time a Lakers’ point guard finished with at least 20 points and 10 assists? Chucky Atkins on January 21, 2005.
“He is doing very well,” Gasol said. “He’s a great pick-and-roll player. He has the speed, size and ability to drive right and drive left. He’s shooting jumpers consistently and making them. He’s getting more comfortable, more used to our offense and the strengths of our players. He did very well tonight.”
Since Sessions arrived in Los Angeles, the Lakers’ ball movement has significantly improved. On Friday night, the team had a season-high 33 assists, which Kobe Bryant attributed to Sessions’ stellar play.
“He’s a big part of it,” Bryant said. “He can get into the paint and he’s creating opportunities for everybody else. Offensively, we’re executing extremely well and we’re running things with more continuity.”
Sessions’ versatility allows him to adjust his approach depending on who he’s playing with. When he’s on the court with the starters, he’s able to play at a slow pace and excel in the half court offense. When he’s playing with the second unit, he speeds things up. He adjusts his style to make those around him better, which is exactly what a team needs from its floor general.
“I’m just playing my game no matter who I’m out there with,” Session said. “The guys in here believe in me and tell me to be aggressive and play my game. It’s one of those things where you have to keep being aggressive and be ready to go.”
“Sessions did a great job controlling the tempo for us,” Lakers head coach Mike Brown said. “He’s shooting the ball well. To have a double-double in 35 minutes is not bad.”
While Sessions has exceeded most expectations in his first five games, the best has yet to come for the young point guard. He hasn’t moved into a house yet and he’s still adjusting to Los Angeles. He has only practiced with the team several times and is still getting to know his teammates. Once he is comfortable, Sessions may be able to elevate his game and make the Lakers an even scarier team. When asked about his adjustment, Sessions admits that he’s not fully acclimated just yet.
“It’s not complete, but it’s getting there,” Sessions said. “After a few more games and a few more practices, I think I’ll be just fine.”
“We’re a pretty easy team to play with,” Bryant said. “We have guys that space the floor extremely well and we have high IQ guys. With the talent level that he has, it’s been a pretty easy transition for him.”
Sessions is enjoying himself in Los Angeles. He played for three losing teams prior to joining the Lakers, so playing with this level of talent and winning games has been a nice change of pace for him. He has never played in the postseason, something that will change this year.
“We expect to win,” Session said. “I can’t really say what my numbers will be night-in and night-out – I’m just feeding off Pau, Bynum and Kobe. They make my job a lot easier out there. Everybody is paying those guys a lot of attention so I just sneak around and take what they give me. Having those three guys has made my transition easy.”
The Lakers didn’t need a blockbuster deal; they needed a point guard who could make the team play to their full potential. Sessions has been a difference maker through five games and his presence will continue to be felt as the Lakers prepare for a deep postseason run.
No Buyout for Kaman: The New Orleans Hornets have decided not to buyout center Chris Kaman. Players had to be waived by Friday at 11:59 p.m. to be playoff-eligible with another team. The deadline came and went, with Kaman remaining on the Hornets’ roster.
Kaman is in the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, New Orleans desperately tried to trade Kaman, but their asking price was a bit high. Several teams expressed interest, but they weren’t willing to give up significant pieces since they might lose Kaman after this season.
The Hornets have expressed interest in re-signing Kaman, but the general consensus around the league is that he wants to play for a contender. Had he been waived last night, he likely would’ve joined the Miami Heat or another elite team capable of winning it all this season.
Instead, he’ll remain with the Hornets for the remainder of the season. He has played in 39 games for the Hornets, averaging 13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in 29.3 minutes.
Weems Sitting Out Remainder of Season: Sonny Weems, who signed with Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania during the lockout, will put off his free agency until July. Rather than returning to the NBA this season, he will sit out the remainder of the 2011-12 NBA season and enter restricted free agency this offseason. The Toronto Raptors will be able to match any offer he receives in July.
If Weems returned to the NBA now, he would find himself in the same tough spot as Wilson Chandler. He’s a restricted free agent, but the deadline to sign an offer sheet with another team passed on March 1. That means he would only be able to negotiate with the Raptors, who haven’t made it known that Weems in their plans. While Chandler was able to sign a long-term deal with the Denver Nuggets under similar circumstance, Weems would rather wait until July to weigh his options.
By sitting out for the remainder of the season, Weems can enter traditional free agency when more teams have money to throw around. Last season, Weems averaged 9.2 points off the bench for the Raptors.
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