Time For Lakers To Start Ramon Sessions
When the Los Angeles Lakers traded away incumbent starter Derek Fisher and acquired guard Ramon Sessions from the Cleveland Cavaliers at the trade deadline, the general thought around the league was that Sessions would be sliding into the starting role.
So far, that plan hasn’t come to fruition.
Steve Blake, while a solid point guard in his own right, has started for the Lakers since the trade deadline and his play has failed to impress. After taking over the starting job, Blake has just as many turnovers (5) as points scored and his minutes have decreased every game since becoming the starter.
Meanwhile, Sessions has scored in double-digits in each of the last three games off the bench; culminating in last night’s dominating performance in Dallas against the Mavericks. Wednesday night, the Lakers’ point guard scored 17 points (making 7-8 shots from the floor), dished out nine assists, grabbed five rebounds and blocked a shot just for good measure.
Sessions exceptional play on the court has impressed many members of this Lakers’ team, the most important of which being Kobe Bryant.
“I’ve been extremely impressed,” Bryant said. “[Sessions] takes a lot of pressure off of me. I can be a legitimate two-guard now. He can be a play-maker for others. Before I had to score and play-make for others as well, now I don’t have to do that – I can be on the receiving end of those plays.”
To Bryant’s point, the most intriguing aspect of Sessions’ play is the simple fact that he takes so much pressure off of Bryant on the offense end.
“We just let him handle the ball, I mean, you saw me off the ball a lot – probably more than you’ve ever seen me and as a result my night was a lot easier,” Bryant said. “I really didn’t have to work. I got 30 points and I didn’t even have to work for any of it because [Sessions] was doing all the penetrating and I was getting great screens.
“I get a lot of off-ball screens which makes my job a lot easier,” Bryant illustrated. “I don’t have to sit there with the ball at the top of the floor and have to create stuff for a bunch of other players and then have to fight through double-teams myself.”
Bryant went on to say that he’s “never played with anybody that fast,” but it’s how Sessions uses his speed that strikes the five-time NBA Champion more than anything.
“His savvy is really the most impressive thing,” Bryant explained. “There are a lot of players who have speed but he understands how to change directions and you see that he sees the floor extremely well. That’s the thing that makes his speed extremely valuable is that he can change gears.”
Lakers’ head coach Mike Brown expounded on Sessions’ ability to ease the burden on Bryant by being able to take the ball out of his hands.
“It takes a lot of pressure off of Kobe because the ball is in Sessions’ hands and he can make plays for himself, he can make plays for his teammates and Kobe can get stuff on the back side (of the play),” Brown said. “Kobe can just sit there and wait and spot up on the weak side for the ball to be kicked out.
“Sessions helps out a lot – as we saw tonight.”
After being relied upon to dictate the offense for the Lakers on a regular basis, Bryant now has the luxury of a point guard that can actually create for him.
“It’s one of those things where Kobe doesn’t have to do it all by himself sometimes,” Sessions said. “Let me come off the pick and roll and try to create something. It’s definitely working out and we’re getting better each game.”
Even after Wednesday’s performance in Dallas, Brown declined to give a timetable on when Sessions could, or even would, join the Lakers’ starting five.
“Obviously, watching him out on the floor with those guys, you think that [Sessions] can be an elite guard in this league,” Brown said. “It’s something we’ll have to talk about, but right now I’ll go back and watch the tape and we’ll make a decision from there.”
It’s not hard to see why the Lakers continue to bring Sessions off the bench – LA is dead last in the NBA is bench points per game. Coach Brown recognizes that LA is simply not a very deep team and Sessions helps to conceal that by providing a big-time spark off the bench.
Another reason LA is biding it’s time with Sessions is because of how difficult it is for a point guard to pick up a new offense on the fly. Understandably, Sessions has had trouble digesting all of the plays and intricacies of Brown’s offense over the span of four games played – especially with very little practice time in this shortened season.
“When we acquired [Sessions] I felt like we were almost at the beginning of the season where we’re trying to force-feed information,” Brown said. “Not only to him but the team because we felt he could be a big part of what we’re doing on both sides of the floor.
“Being a quick-learner he felt a little bit more comfortable at the end of the game [against Dallas],” Brown explained. “We still have a ways to go but we have a chance to be pretty good with the addition of this guy because of his ability to do a lot of different things with the basketball in his hands in terms of getting easy baskets.”
In talking to Sessions, it’s clear that he has just one goal in mind: winning. The fifth-year player told HOOPSWORLD he doesn’t care if he starts or comes off the bench, as long as Los Angeles keeps winning.
“If the opportunity presents itself, I’m definitely going to take advantage of it,” Sessions told HOOPSWORLD. “If I’m starting here or if I’m not; as long as we’re winning games that’s all that matters around here…
“I knew coming here that all they do is win around here,” Sessions admitted. “Anything short of a ring is a bad season. It’s definitely a challenge.”
Even though Sessions continues to tote the company line (undeniably a smart move), there’s no denying that the Lakers are a better team with Sessions running the show. As Sessions continues to play exceptional basketball, it’s going to become increasingly more difficult for the Lakers to justify keeping him out of the starting lineup.
After last night’s showing, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Sessions in the starting lineup Friday night when the Lakers take on the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center. If the goal is still to win a championship, getting Sessions on the court as often as possible should be the number one priority going forward.
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