Archive for the 'Ramon Sessions' Category

Ramon Sessions: 2012 Exit Interview

Ramon Sessions had immediate success upon being acquired by the Lakers at the trade deadline, averaging 12.7 points on 47.9 percent shooting and 48.6 percent from three plus 6.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.

His production tailed off in the postseason, when in 12 games he averaged 9.7 points, 3.6 assists and 3.0 rebounds while struggling from the field, shooting 37.7 percent from the floor and just 16.0 percent (4 of 25) from three as the offense ran much more through Kobe Bryant.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Sessions described how it was a dream come true for him to be put in this situation, that he learned a lot from his first playoff experience and first time on a team with a winning record, which he called a “dream come true.” Of course, he was disappointed that it ended when it did, calling it “too soon.” There’s an unfulfilled feeling there, but Sessions was generally thrilled to have the chance to be a Laker.

- Next season? Sessions has a player option for next season that he’ll need to decide whether to pick up by June 20: “Definitely hope to be here. Hopefully everything works out … we’ll just see what happens. I haven’t thought about it yet, the season just got over. I’ll take some time to reflect.” Sessions denied reports about him either picking up or waiving his player option year, and said he simply had yet to make a decision.

- On what will go into his decision: “Tomorrow is not promised. It’s not something I’m weighing everything on, because I was fortunate to get one deal, and financially is not an issue, so I’m definitely going to look at how can I become a complete player, one of the top guards in the league, the best situation, the best winning experience. I just want to win, there’s no secret about it.”

- On if the Lakers is the right fit for him: “I think so. With my game maturing more, with me being able to knock down that (jump) shot. I know I can make it work … in my career I always played with the ball in my hand, but this summer I’ll work at playing off the ball more and making that better.”

- He plans on working on every aspect of his game in the offseason, including spot-up shooting, ball-handling and the like, but more specifically on the types of shots he knows he’d get playing with the Lakers. Sessions thinks that he can fit in with L.A. however they’re playing, whether slowing it down or speeding it up. He’d really be helped by a training camp and practices to determine what to do, where to do it and when to do so. He’d like to become better at knowing the personnel and how to run the team, which was more difficult due to such a lack of time he had in the purple and gold.

- On if his shooting struggles in the playoffs had to do with trying to get the ball to the bigs or Kobe more and not being in a rhythm: “It’s tough to figure out, because the offense changes a little more than in the regular season, but there were still shots that I was getting that I’d knock down if I got them tomorrow,” he said. “Sometimes they just don’t go in, that’s how basketball goes sometimes.”

- Sessions felt like the Lakers simply needed to be consistent for 48 minutes, which was a problem all season and in the playoffs, and lamented letting “some slip away” against Oklahoma City. “We played a great 46 minutes of basketball” in Game 2, he said, and 42 minutes in Game 4. That’ll hurt in the offseason.

- On what needs to improve defensively: “Just sticking my nose in there a little more on the weak side. A lot of little things. When you’re on teams that are rebuilding, defense is not the most important thing, so you don’t really see the little things. But when you’re playing with a championship team like the Lakers, those little things – like a box out or chasing the guard all the way through, things you can get away with on a rebuilding team – are big when you’re trying to win a championship.

- Sessions and his dog Sesh will return to Atlanta for the offseason as he makes his decision and works on his game.

Ramon Sessions: General Update

Fourteen games into his Purple and Gold tenure, Ramon Sessions checked in with reporters following the team’s practice in San Antonio, addressing a number of topics that we summarized below:

DEFENSE: When asked about how his D was progressing, and what his coaches wanted from him, Sessions had this to say: “It’s coming along a lot better. The last couple of days we’ve been able to get some (film) time in, and today was great to get some practice in. I’m definitely picking up on it, which is good heading into the playoffs. (They want me to be) up on the ball and don’t stop on the play and look for rebounds. Hit the bigs that are down there and just help on the boards.” Sessions added that he can “definitely be more aggressive” pushing onto his guy thanks to the presence of seven footers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in the paint. L.A.’s coaches agree, and would actually like him to push up even more onto his man.

That said, Mike Brown was complimentary of Sessions’ development on D:

“He had some good actions on the defensive end of the floor from yesterday’s game and we showed a couple of them on the film session today,” said Brown. “He’s definitely getting better, which is exciting to see, because we still have some time left for him to continue to learn and grow.”

INJURIES: Sessions has been dealing with a sprained left shoulder (ac joint) that has required frequent treatment and constant icing, in addition to a bothersome, jammed right index finger.

His thoughts first on the finger: “It feels better, but it’s just the grind of the season. Just trying to not get it banged on again, and I kind of got it banged again (at New Orleans). It’s one of those things. It was feeling the best it’s felt last night, and to get it hit again was another little set back. But nothing too major.” Indeed, Sessions managed to sink the dagger three in the final minute that buried New Orleans, exploded for a two-handed dunk in the paint and finished with 17 points on 5 of 9 field goals (plus six free throws), plus six boards and six assists.

And the shoulder: “It’s getting better each day. It hasn’t gotten really hit too hard yet, so hopefully before long it gets to 100 percent. Nobody really knows the time it’ll get right, but (I’m) just getting treatment on it and hope it gets better.”

DUNKING ON PEOPLE: Sessions said he’s understanding what he’s supposed to do on offense pretty well, and has become especially comfortable running the pick and roll. The Hornets saw this most notably in the third quarter, when at the 5:03 mark, Sessions blew right by Greivis Vasquez and exploded for a two-handed dunk over Chris Kaman. His thought: “The guys always tell me, I’m already up there so I might as well turn (the ball over into the rim).”

Guarding the Point Guard

If one can force an opponent to work harder on one end of the floor, it should take something away from that player on the other end.

Right?

Well, the impact of Ramon Sessions after six games — 14 points and seven assists a night – is right there to confront the observer, but the less apparent affect he can have upon opposing point guards is duly important.

To first deal with the obvious: it’s not hard to notice the impact of Sessions as he darts to the bucket and either finishes at the rim or finds an open shooter, when he uses pick and rolls to get teammates better shots or streak up the court in transition.

“Ramon adds a different element to the Lakers,” said Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley. “He’s always in attack mode and you always have to be aware. You usually know what you’re getting, playing against Kobe (Bryant) and Pau (Gasol) and (Andrew) Bynum. But Sessions just adds a whole different dimension for them and makes them a more lethal team.”

And it means something for those trying to chase Sessions around the floor.

Point men Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker play for the two teams ahead of L.A. in the standings, and both relentlessly attack the basket. In the past, such PG’s were able to rest on defense when playing the Lakers … but with Sessions in the mix, Conley detailed why that’s no longer the case.

“They used (Derek) Fisher more as a spot up shooter, so it was easier to get around and roam a little bit,” said the league’s leader in steals. “It makes me have to be less of a gambler, more of a solid defensive player. I could easily get in foul trouble, so I have to be able to adjust to the new scouting report since it has changed for this team.”

L.A.’s coaches know that.

“It puts pressure on the opposing point guard to consistently defend his position throughout the course of a shot clock, where as when a guard is off the ball, there’s an opportunity at times to rest defensively,” said Lakers assistant Quin Snyder. “A lot of those guys need to rest defensively because they’re pushing the ball up the court so fast.”

It hasn’t been 100 percent rosy since Sessions came on board, the Lakers going 3-3 and losing their third and fourth home games of the season. Memphis beat the Lakers with effort on Sunday evening (“We felt like we were more hungry,” per Conley), but the NBA’s best thief (2.44 per game) had only one steal while largely being preoccupied with Sessions, worrying more about from where screens were coming.

“When you’re playing a team that likes to run pick and roll, you have to play guys as a 1-on-1 match up, and not rely on just having your help around the screen,” Conley explained. “You can easily get hit with a screen, caught turning and looking, but we stress to work through that. It’s not different from most teams that run pick and roll, but it’s different for the Lakers from what they were doing.”

Scoring was coming more easily to the Lakers even before Sessions came over from Cleveland, as the team became more comfortable with Mike Brown’s early offensive sets that flow into elements of the triangle and feature several post up options. The concern for L.A.’s coaching staff has been that with buckets less difficult to come by, the defensive effort hasn’t been as consistent as it was to start the season.

In fact, L.A. gave up at least 100 points in four of five nights before the defense showed up to limit Dallas (93) and Portland (96), but then relaxed against Memphis (102). The coaches are worried less about the total number of points being given up, since with the Lakers scoring more quickly there will by nature be more possessions for the opponent to score, and focus instead upon field goal defense. That said, Snyder explained why defense does remain a concern.

“There is a natural tendency for teams with an ability to score easily to feel like they can give a bucket up without it hurting,” Snyder said. “But that’s not what actually wins championships, because defense is something that you literally have more control over from game to game. There are aspects of offense that you can’t control.”

The key to L.A.’s defense is paint anchor Andrew Bynum, who when at his defensive peak can make the paint seem very, very small. He showed as much in the third quarter vs. Memphis, dominating the lane as the Lakers went on a 15-0 run, but took ownership of being less impactful for the rest of the game. He grabbed only four rebounds, just a bit below his 12.3 per game average.

“I need to play better defense, I need to come up with a double-double, get more rebounds,” said Bynum. “The last four games I haven’t had more than ten boards and we went 2-2; I think that shows something.”

Snyder would agree.

“What Andrew is able to do defensively when he’s focused is unique,” said Snyder. “Switching onto point guards, blocking shots from the weak side, rebounding the basketball … he’s our anchor.”

But here’s why the Lakers are feeling pretty good internally: they figure if they add the new options Sessions delivers at both ends to a defense capable of dominating games when playing to its capability, they’ll be exactly where they want to be.

Sessions to Start

Mike Brown told reporters attending Friday’s shootaround that Ramon Sessions would move into the starting line up for L.A.’s Friday night matchup with Portland.

Sessions, who has excelled in his four games coming off the bench, impressed Brown with his ability to pick up the team’s offensive and defensive concepts very quickly. On the court, his speed and athleticism have been major factors, while his ability in the pick and roll poses a major problem for opponents, so much so that Brown wants him on the court for extended minutes.

Sessions will likely see time with the second unit as well, with Steve Blake sliding over to the two guard spot, to take advantage of his pick and rolling and take some pressure off Andrew Bynum.

Sessions Impressing

One week into his tenure in Los Angeles, Ramon Sessions has been impressive enough to turn more than the heads of opposing defenders trying to cut off his penetration.

Just ask Kobe Bryant.

“I’ve been extremely impressed,” he said. “(Sessions) takes a lot of pressure off me. I can be a legitimate two-guard now. He can play make for others; before, I had to score and play make for others as well. I don’t have to do that, I can be on the receiving end of those plays.”

Indeed, Sessions’ ability to attack the paint both off regular sets and in transition has produced a bevy of wide open shots for Kobe and the rest of the Lakers (just ask Matt Barnes, who’s average has bumped up five points). Sessions has picked up L.A.’s early offense quickly, complementing his ability to play as he always has in the pick and roll, where he’s excellent at taking what the defense gives him.

“His savvy is really the most impressive thing,” Bryant continued. “A lot of players have speed, but he understands how to change directions and sees the floor extremely well. That’s the thing that makes his speed extremely valuable, is that he can change gears.”

The box score spoke pretty loudly for Sessions in his fourth game in Purple and Gold, a decisive 109-93 victory at Dallas in which he scored 17 points on 7-of-8 field goals (3-of-4 3′s), plus nine assists, five rebounds, one block and three turnovers in 29 minutes.

“The kid, Sessions, made the game easy for everybody,” said his new coach, Mike Brown. “You can see how his speed can help us, and his ability to play pick and roll and turn the corner and get in the teeth of the defense, and set guys up for easy what I call HORSE shots.

“That’s where they’ve got their feet set and its like when you’re in seventh grade and you’re playing HORSE with somebody and nobody shoots shots off the dribble, they just stood there and waited until they got the ball in their hands and you shoot it in a comfortable environment.”

In four games since his acquisition from Cleveland on trade deadline day, Sessions is averaging (surely-to-go-up) 25.0 minutes per game towards 12.0 points, 6.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds on 56.7 percent from the field, including 3-of-7 three-pointers.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe, in the 100 total minutes Sessions has been on the court, L.A. is scoring 114 points per 100 possessions, which (per to NBA.com’s stats tool) would easily lead the NBA.

Lowe points out that L.A.’s three-point shooting has improved markedly with Sessions on the floor, showing that the Lakers have attempted 20 triples per 48 minutes with Sessions in, hitting 48 percent, but connecting on only 25 percent when he sits. That passes the eye test, since his ability to penetrate and dish with a precise pass gives shooters the extra second to set up for an attempt (a HORSE shot, to Brown).

In addition to Barnes picking up his play to average 12 points off the bench since Sessions arrived, Pau Gasol has found himself with many wide open looks of late. The Spaniard drained 13-of-16 attempts at Dallas, including all seven attempts from about 15 feet and out on the top of the floor in the pick and pop area. Gasol connected on 10-of-14 field goals against Houston on the previous evening.

Sessions is quick to acknowledge that one of the reasons he’s had so much space in which to operate is how much attention Bryant, Gasol and Andrew Bynum in particular demand. Teams really have to make some tough choices when Sessions turns the corner on a pick and roll, because, well, whom should they leave?

Brown hinted that he’s going to have to consider putting Sessions into the starting line up and returning Steve Blake to the second unit, where Blake has played well of late, but said he’d first like to go over the tape from the Mavericks game.

Whether Sessions starts on Friday against Portland or continues to play increasingly more minutes off the bench, his impact on the court is thus far unquestioned.

Sessions Strong in Lakers Debut

Despite arriving in Los Angeles on Friday morning without the benefit of a single practice, Ramon Sessions kicked off his Lakers debut in style.

In the 10-minute stretch surrounding the first quarter break, Sessions scored six points on 3-of-5 field goals — including two blow-by layups that had Staples Center buzzing — with two assists to Matt Barnes for three-pointers, plus two rebounds. Over that period, the Lakers outscored the Wolves by 14 points, opening a 42-27 lead when starter Steve Blake checked back in.

“When you have talent like we have in this locker room it makes (getting comfortable) easier for me,” said Sessions. “I did send out an email last night to get some plays … just in case I did play so I was able to know a few of them and it kind of worked out for me.”

Sessions finished with seven points on 3-of-6 shooting with five assists, four boards and three turnovers in 19 minutes.

“They told me to be aggressive and just attack on the pick and roll, so that’s what I did,” said Sessions.

Kobe Bryant was pleased.

“He’s extremely fast and extremely crafty,” said Bryant. “The conversations I had with him out on the floor about execution and things like that, he seems to have a really high basketball IQ.

“He can score. He can obviously get into the paint as you saw tonight. He’s going to be a feature for our team that opponents are going to have to prepare for, they’re going to have to talk about it and they’re going to have to do something to try and slow him down.”

Bryant acknowledged that Sessions’ ability to get into the paint and create offense takes pressure off him, as No. 24 had been L.A.’s only penetrator from the perimeter before the acquisition of the team’s new point guard.

“Absolutely, you saw that tonight,” Bryant said. “You saw glimpses of it tonight where he handled the ball and got a lot of pick and roll situations, got into the paint and got guys a lot of easy opportunities and broke down the defense.”

Returning to the bench after his opening session, Sessions sat next to assistant coach Quin Snyder to go over play sets, all new to him, on a clipboard. He’d to the same for the first seven minutes of the third quarter, before checking in with 3:30 left as Blake went to the pine with an effective six assists without a turnover.

His first two passes in the period resulted in Kobe Bryant three-pointers, his fourth and fifth of the night to match a season high, getting the Lakers to a 74-58 lead.

Sessions held up fine on defense, spending some time guarding both point and shooting guards, which his solid 6-3 frame allows; his new coach felt like he showed what he could do in a few areas.

“You can see his quickness,” said Mike Brown. “He has a second, third and even fourth gear where he beat everyone down the floor. We put him in the pick and roll, and he was able to get into the teeth of the defense. It was good to see.”

Sessions found an instant connection with Matt Barnes, whose basket cut Sessions rewarded with a pretty pass for a layup that had Barnes to 12 points on 5-of-7 field goals. Barnes would finish with 17 points, matching a season high, and the bench totaled 31 overall.

“I thought Sessions did a nice job in the 19 minutes he played to get the ball to different people,” said Brown. “He got Matt a couple of wide-open looks with dribble drives and (kick out passes).”

He’d be replaced for good by Blake at the 6:15 mark of the fourth quarter, his career record with the Lakers at 1-0.

Saturday’s practice was for Sessions a continued crash course of the team’s plays and play calls on offense, and he stayed afterwards first to go through sets with four teammates and assistant coach John Kuester, then further pick and roll work with Snyder and coach Ettore Messina.

Up next for Sessions and the Lakers is a Sunday evening contest against Utah at Staples Center.

Trade Deadline Day Wrap Up

A flurry of activity on trade deadline day in the NBA brought a new look to the Lakers heading into the final 23 games of the season, with the acquisition of point guard Ramon Sessions from Cleveland and departure of Derek Fisher to Houston headlining two moves directed by general manager Mitch Kupchak.

Joining Sessions from the Cavs is forward Christian Eyenga, in exchange for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono, a protected 2012 first round draft pick and other considerations. To get Fisher and the 2012 first pick L.A. received from Dallas in the Lamar Odom trade, the Rockets sent big man Jordan Hill to Los Angeles.

Financial considerations were certainly kept in mind, as Kupchak explained, given the increasing luxury tax penalties negotiated into the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the GM was very pleased to keep the team’s three stars – Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum – in tact while still addressing a primary need.

Sessions and Hill will take physicals on Friday morning, and are expected to be available to Mike Brown should he choose to use either against the Timberwolves on Friday night.

Sessions excelled as the backup to the leading Rookie of the Year candidate Kyrie Irving, averaging 10.5 points and 5.2 assists in just 24.5 minutes per game this season. The Nevada product was even more productive in four starts, averaging 17.8 points and 11.0 assists, and has career averages of 14.8 points, 7.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 89 starts.

“We think Ramon (will) make a more immediate impact (than Eyenga or Hill),” said Kupchak. “Despite Derek’s presence, we felt we needed more speed and quickness in the backcourt. There’s nobody we’d trust with an open shot (more) than Derek Fisher, but we felt from a defensive point of view and giving us some speed and quickness (the move fit).”

The 6-3 guard spent his first three seasons in Milwaukee and Minnesota before being traded to the Cavs prior to the 2010-11 season. A second round pick, Sessions didn’t appear in a game for Milwaukee in the first five months of his rookie year, but immediately showed his value while averaging 11.5 points and 11.3 assists in April of 2008, including a 20-point, 24-assist effort against Chicago.

Sessions gives the Lakers something they did not have on the roster, much coveted by Kupchak and executive VP, player personnel Jim Buss: a slashing point guard adept at penetrating and creating offense either for himself or for teammates. Sessions has also improved his three-point shooting markedly this season, hitting 41.9 percent from behind the arc to bump his career average up to 29.3 percent.

Kupchak thinks that the moves put the Lakers in a better position to make a run at another championship despite losing Fisher’s leadership and experience.

“If we can get over the emotional toll, which I believe we will, we have the potential to be a better team,” he said.

Since Sessions is a bigger point guard, Kupchak acknowledged that he can also be used at the two-guard spot if Mike Brown would like, as both he and Steve Blake can defend most NBA shooting guards. It will be up to Brown to decide who starts, though it’s presumed that Blake will do so on Friday.

Hill, a 6-10 forward/center in his third year out of Arizona, was originally selected by New York with the eighth overall pick in 2009. Acquired by Houston as part of a three-team, nine-player trade midway through his rookie season, Hill has averaged 5.4 points and 4.2 boards in 151 career NBA games (18 starts) in 14.7 minutes. He averaged 18.3 points and 11.0 boards in three college seasons, and in games this year in which he’s played at least 15 minutes, he’s produced 7.9 points and 7.5 boards.

Eyenga was nabbed with the 30th pick by Cleveland in the 2009 Draft, and has played in six games this season with an average of 13.8 minutes per contest towards 1.5 points and 2.0 rebounds. The 6-7 forward played in 44 games as a rookie with the Cavaliers, averaging 6.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 21.5 minutes.

While the Lakers are excited about what Sessions in particular might add, the organization expressed how much it will miss Fisher, the team’s emotional leader that came up huge so many times throughout his 13 seasons wearing Purple and Gold.

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to Derek for everything he has meant to this organization over the years,” said Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss. “Few who have worn the Lakers uniform have done so with as much class as Derek, both on the court and in the community. From his famous 0.4 shot in San Antonio to his clutch performances in the Finals against Orlando and Boston when it mattered most, Derek will always hold a special place not only in my heart, but in the heart of Lakers fans everywhere.”

Kupchak addressed the difficulty of trading Fisher, with whom he hopes to speak on Friday after an attempt on Thursday morning got Fisher’s voicemail, and also took care to thank Walton for his years of service to the Lakers, highlighted by his contributions to the back-to-back championships and consistently positive presence in the locker room.

Kupchak said it’s up to the remaining players and Brown to fill the leadership position Fisher so adeptly held. He added that giving up the two draft picks was less of a concern since such a player was unlikely to be better than Sessions.

DRAFT PICK DETAILS

The pick L.A. sent to Cleveland is lottery protected for the 2012 draft; in other words, if the Lakers miss the playoffs this season, they’d keep their pick in 2012, and Cleveland would get L.A.’s 2014 pick. Furthermore, the Lakers agreed to swap a lottery protected first round pick in 2013 with Cleveland for either the Cavs’ pick, Miami’s 2013 pick or Sacramento’s 2013 pick, all owned by the Cavs, at Cleveland’s discretion. In short, if L.A.’s pick is better (lower) than that of any of those three teams, the Cavs can swap with the Lakers.

The first rounder the Lakers sent to Houston came from Dallas in the preseason Lamar Odom trade, and is protected through 20 picks for six years.