Ramon Sessions fitting in just fine
The newest Lakers guard is fast becoming Kobe-approved as he finds his way
DALLAS -- Forget play-by-play guy and color-commentary man, or coach and general manager, the dynamic between a team's primary point guard and shooting guard is as important a two-person tandem as there exists in the NBA.
Ideally, they complement each other not just in their style of play, but in countless other ways.
There's body size to take into account, and skill sets and demeanors and knowledge of each other's tendencies, too.
For 13 of the past 16 seasons, Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher had that all down pat. They balanced out each another like an old married couple. Mamba dominated the ball, Mr. 0.4 played off the ball and developed into a catch-and-shoot threat. When Fisher, at 6-foot-1, gave up too much height, the 6-6 Bryant could crossmatch on defense. Where Bryant's leadership was dictator-like, Fisher's was more democratic. On and on and on.
There was only one problem: They were both aging. It's great to have two guards ascending at the same time. It can lead to a few headaches over touches along the way, but that's a small price to pay for collective improvement. It's ideal to have two guards in their prime and completely comfortable in their game. It's manageable to have one guard on the ascent and one on the descent. But two guards on the decline at the same time? It's not the situation in which a team wants to be.
While Fisher was traded nearly a week ago, the Bryant and Fisher union didn't officially end until Wednesday.
The Bryant-Fisher duo might have sung its final harmony, but the Bryant-Sessions pair showed the first glimpse of its true potential in the Los Angeles Lakers' 109-93 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.
As Lakers coach Mike Brown put it: "To have a two-headed monster like that on the perimeter was good."
Good. And only getting better.
"I felt like tonight was a major step for us," Sessions said. "It was one of those things where Kob doesn't have to do it all by himself."
Bryant finished with 30 points, five rebounds and four assists in 35 efficient minutes, shooting 11-for-18 from the field.
"We just let him handle the ball," Bryant said of Sessions. "You saw me off the ball a lot, more than probably you've ever seen me. As a result, my night was a lot easier. I really didn't have to work. I had, what, 30 points? I didn't have to work for any of it because he's doing all the penetrating and I was getting great screens."
Sessions finished with 17 points, nine assists and five rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench and was even more accurate than Bryant, shooting 7-for-8.
"He definitely takes pressure off of me," Sessions said of Bryant. "He lets me do what I do: be aggressive."
Brown noted the symbiotic relationship between the two. What does Sessions do for Bryant? "It takes some pressure off of Kobe because Kobe can go sit in the corner for a little bit and let Sessions play pick and roll," Brown said. And how about how Bryant benefits Sessions? "Anybody that plays with Kobe can be a lot of help because he just commands so much attention," Brown said.
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Before the narrative becomes all about whether Brown will start Sessions over Steve Blake, the story should be about the possibilities that Bryant and Sessions create together in the last half of the fourth quarter rather than the first half of the first quarter. (For the record, Brown says "it's something I'll have to talk about" with his coaching staff; Sessions says, "It don't make no difference"; and Bryant says, "I don't know, I'm not the coach.")
"I've been extremely impressed," Bryant said. "He takes a lot of pressure off of me. I can be a legitimate 2-guard now. Know what I mean? 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."
Bryant shot better than 50 percent for the first time in 11 games while taking fewer than 20 shots for the first time in 15 games. Those stats are related. The more the ball is out of Bryant's hands when he's in difficult situations to score, the more he'll have the proper energy to execute plays when he has the ball coming off a screen or catching the ball in the post with a matchup he can exploit.
Bryant couldn't have been more effusive with his praise of Sessions on Wednesday night.
Sessions' court vision? "Just the reads that he makes," Bryant said. "He made me one pass tonight that I saw, but I didn't think he saw, and he slipped it right between the defense. I was like, 'Ooh. Interesting.'"
Sessions' speed? "There are a lot of players who have speed, but he understands how to change directions and he sees the floor extremely well," Bryant said. "That's the thing that makes his speed extremely valuable, that he can change gears."
Almost as fast as Bryant changed partners in the backcourt and, quite possibly, just as effectively.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.