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No need to rush Ramon Sessions into starting role

March 19, 2012|By Mark Medina
  • Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions tries to fight through a double team by the Jazz during a pick-and-roll play Sunday evening at Staples Center.
Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions tries to fight through a double team by… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

The moment Ramon Sessions hit the deck, Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts rushed to pick him up. After all, Sessions has become the Lakers' most prized possession.

The moment Sessions runs the offense, finds an open teammates or drives to the rack, the crowd at Staples Center gazes in amazement. No Laker fan has seen this kind of speed when Derek Fisher played point guard.

The moment Sessions details the varying lengths he's crammed about the offense, the reporters around him remain astonished. If he's processing all this under only one practice and shootaround, imagine how amazing Sessions will look once he's fully developed.

Two games into his Laker debut, Sessions has dazzled fans and teammates alike with his 8.5 points, his speed and his aggressiveness. But Lakers Coach Mike Brown rightfully hasn't given him the starting spot right away over Steve Blake.

Sessions deserves it, especially once he catches up on the offense. All accounts show that Sessions is better at running the point. The Lakers committed 17 of their 24 turnovers in their 103-99 loss Sunday to Utah while Blake ran the point. Sessions remains more aggressive at finding his shot than Blake's shown.

But what matters more about the Lakers' development involves how Brown uses Sessions and Blake, than who starts.

"They both get out on the break," Lakers center Andrew Bynum said of Blake and Sessions. "They both are capable of getting to the lane and making plays. Right now, it's definitely a toss up. I don't mind playing with either of them. They get me the ball when I need it."

The good part about this debate: this issue doesn't appear like it will cause much friction in the locker room. Sessions provided the company line saying, "it doesn't matter, as long as we win the games." Blake avoided the discussion altogether: "I don't know. Ask him." That refers to Brown, who outlined his vision for their roles this way.

"Basically Steve Blake has taken Fisher's spot," Brown said, "and Sessions has taken Steve Blake's spot."

Even with Fisher's deficiencies, he kept the starting spot both for his standing on the team and because he fared better running a deliberate offense with the starters than running a fast-paced offense with the reserves. The same applies here.

Sessions has thrived with the bench unit for various reasons. The unit's last-place ranking in scoring (20.5 points per game) necessitates Sessions finds his own shot. His speed enhances an off-court slasher in Matt Barnes, who has posted double-figure points since his arrival. He helped the bench build leads when it previously just blew them. It's tempting to see that skillset and envision how it translates into the starting group. But it's just not time. Sessions has mostly played off instinct than actually running the playbook. His scoring ability would be tempered because he'd defer more to Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. The bench's inconsistency would creep up.

Meanwhile, Blake's performed solid enough with the starters to still warrant the job. Sure, Brown wishes Blake would shoot more than the 28 attempts he's taken all month in 10 games. Blake isn't as quick as Sessions. He also doesn't appear as vocal. But it's unfair to use the Lakers' performance against Utah as an example of the Lakers' offensive execution under Blake.

The 17 turnovers the Lakers committed while Blake ran the offense mostly came from bad passes from Bryant (seven), Gasol (five) and Bynum (five). The Lakers' frontline still shot an efficient 12-of-26 inside partly because of Blake's ball movement. Bryant may have shot a miserable three-of-20, but Blake set Bryant up for shots he normally would make.

So instead of clamoring for Sessions to immediately start at point guard, Laker fans should just continue to watch how each respective unit responds to Sessions and Blake. That will be a more telling sign on whether the Lakers have truly upgraded the backcourt.


Mike Brown: Steve Blake to start 'for the forseeable future'

Ramon Sessions shows adrenaline rush in Lakers' debut

Lakers' turnovers largely contribute to loss to Utah

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