Lakers guard Ramon Sessions is fouled by Thunder forward Serge Ibaka on… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The early image of Ramon Sessions zooming up the court and creating in transition quickly evaporated.
Instead, it's been replaced with a tentative point guard who has an inconsistent shot, occasionally attacks the basket and rarely creates offense. Then there's his defense of quick, opposing point guards. For all the hand-wringing over Derek Fisher's getting burned on pick-and-rolls, Sessions has hardly fared much better.
The result: The Lakers so far has lacked the consistent point guard production they need in the postseason. Sessions, with only two points on one-of-seven shooting in the Lakers' 119-90 Game 1 loss Monday to Oklahoma City, has failed to match expectations since the Lakers acquired him March 15 in a trade from Cleveland for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono, a first-round pick and cash. Sessions has shot 36.8% from the field. He has assisted on fewer then 20% of the baskets while he's on the floor. And he has scored in single digits in three of the last four games.
Oh, Sessions has still provided some good moments. After largely struggling with his shot all game, Sessions scored 10 fourth-quarter points to secure the Lakers' 104-100 Game 2 victory over Denver. His three-pointer with 48.1 seconds left, along with Steve Blake's trey, cemented the Lakers' 92-88 Game 4 win over the Nuggets.
Sessions had provided an immediate offensive boost when he joined the Lakers. He shot 52.2% from the field, helped the Lakers raise their scoring averaging to 100.97 points in March from 93.2 in February and largely increased the team's use of pick-and-roll sets.
Though the team scoring average reached 102.8 points per game in April, that was more a result of Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant producing. Sessions' shooting numbers dipped to 46.5% that month and in the last five regular-season games, his output declined to 9.2 points per game on 41.7% shooting.
In the long run, the Lakers still benefit from his presence and should sign him to a long-term contract extension after he plans to opt out of his player option this offseason. For now, however, it's fair to wonder whether the Lakers are fully exploiting his assets. They've insisted that he play at a slower tempo to avoid getting into track meets against quicker teams and to accomodate Bynum's post presence.
In taking his foot off the accelerator, though, Sessions has suddenly appeared more tentative in half-court sets. He rarely attacks the rim. When he sees open jump shots and three-pointers, he sometimes appears hesitant to take them.
In the future, both parties are going to have to adapt. Sessions shouldn't equate running at a slower pace to being passive. The Lakers need to have the offense mostly involve Bryant, Bynum and Pau Gasol. But that doesnt' mean Sessions should give up primary ballhandling duties in favor of dump-off passes. It also doesn't mean Sessions should face severe limitations in running pick-and-roll sets.
Surely there are plenty of other adjustments the Lakers need to make in Game 2 against the Thunder that go beyond Sessions. How will they stop Oklahoma City in transition? What will they do to contain Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden? How will Bryant get better looks? But for the Lakers to have any chance against Oklahoma City, some version of the Sessions who gave the team an instant lift when he first arrived will have to return.
Ramon Sessions awaits first playoff test
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