We don’t even need a Lakers Nation poll to determine the overall consensus on whether Ramon Sessions should start. The offense flows, the tempo is better, and the team simply looks more ‘fluid’ when Sessions is in the lineup. In no way, is that intended as a disrespect towards Steve Blake, but the facts are the facts. Blake, for the record, seems much more comfortable playing with the 2nd unit, as a change-of-pace player. Although Sessions and Blake have each been career back-ups, Sessions is an up-and-coming potential star in this league.
As much as I want to defend Mike Brown’s decision of continuing to bring Sessions off the bench, I’m at a loss. Sessions netted 17 points (7/8 FG’s), nine assists and five rebounds in 29 minutes of action. By far, the best productivity out of that position (in limited minutes) in years.
The ‘Perspective Angel’ on my left shoulder wants me to remind folks of Jason Kidd’s lack of foot-speed, and inability to truly challenge Sessions in the way a Russell Westbrook (OKC) or Chris Paul (LAC) would. That said, Sessions will be able to challenge and place pressure on the speedier guards by simply making them have to account for him on the defensive end.
Some folks have pointed towards Matt Barnes’ recent resurgence, while playing with Sessions, as a reason to keep him in the 2nd unit. While I’m all for Barnes’ playing well, Sessions could have the very same impact upon the entire starting unit. Not only does he have the ability to penetrate the lane and finish at/around the rim, unlike anyone else on the roster, Sessions has the ability to consistently ‘create’ scoring opportunities for everyone on the court. In the past, when opponents would double-team the big men, unless Bryant’s outside shot was falling, the Lakers struggled to simply surpass the 90-point plateau.
Sessions is precisely the ‘shot-in-the-arm’ this team needed, and (possibly) none more than Kobe Bryant. Bryant, league-leader in scoring, is obviously still playing at an elite level. No one can deny that fact, just as no one can deny the fact that in Bryant’s 16th year, he’s playing as many minutes as he did during the 2009-2010 Championship season.
Needless to say, that situation is not ideal.
Not only can the influx of young talent ease the minute-total for Bryant, but Sessions can actually make the game easier for him. Rather than having to rely upon the incredibly predictable isolation sets for the last 5 minutes of every 4th quarter, Sessions gives the Lakers someone other than Bryant that can break his man down and create offense. In the absence of Lamar Odom, that void has never been more glaring than it was during the first half of the season.
Starting Sessions, now, would also give Coach Brown an opportunity to ‘set’ the rotation, and develop the vital chemistry a deep playoff run will require. Prior to the final playoff seedings, the Lakers have 19 games left to determine their position. Currently in the 3-seed, the Lakers hold a 2.5 game lead over the Grizzlies, Clippers, and Mavericks, but have their sights set on the teams (Thunder and Spurs) ahead of them. Oklahoma City (6-game lead) may be out of reach, but San Antonio only holds a 2.5 game lead with three huge meetings with the Lakers between April 11th – April 20th. If there were still 40 games left in the season, Coach Brown might have the luxury of waiting for Sessions to find a comfort zone. With six teams within 4.5 games of the Lakers, coach Brown must also employ that sense of urgency he has been asking of his players. The time is now.