Posts Tagged ‘Ramon Sessions’

Bobcats and Timberwolves … Rising?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Don’t rub your eyes. It’s real. As of this morning, the Charlotte Bobcats and Minnesota Timberwolves are both doing the unthinkable for two teams that have served as league-wide punching bags in recent seasons.

All the fun we’ve had at the expense of Bobcats owner Michael Jordan and Timberwolves boss David Kahn has been silenced by the winning ways, so far, of their respective teams. They are both 5-4 and battling their way to respectability while shaking off whatever adversity comes their way.

For all of the early-season shockers around the league, both good and bad, these two winning outfits have to rank at or near the top of the list of biggest surprises.

One of the better games of this young season was the 89-87 thriller they played against each other last week, the one where Kemba Walker‘s buzzer-beater gave the Bobcats their third straight win.

Last night’s comeback win over the Milwaukee Bucks was another quality notch for Bobcats belt this season. They’re digging out of that ugly hole from last season in the only way possible: with their heads down, their defensive style looking legitimate and contributions from up and down the roster.

It’s more than most of us expected from a team with a new coach (Mike Dunlap), a new star (rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) and plenty of other new faces added to the mix and continue to defy the odds. Jordan probably didn’t see this coming, not this soon. They didn’t win their fifth game during last year’s lockout-shortened season until March 12, just so we’re clear about how much progress has been made.

The Timberwolves are thriving on the other side of the conference divide without the services of their biggest stars. All-Star power forward Kevin Love (broken hand) and Ricky Rubio (recovering from torn ACL in left knee) have yet to suit up this season. Brandon Roy‘s comeback has been derailed by yet another knee procedure (he’s expected to miss at least a month) and Chase Budinger is out three months after knee surgery).

But Rick Adelman, as he often does, has found a way to cobble together enough healthy bodies to make the Timberwolves a factor every night. Andre Kirilenko‘s return to the NBA has been a huge boost. He leads the team in rebounds (8.3) and blocks (2.2). Fellow Russian Alexey Shved has also made an impression during his first few weeks of NBA action, showing signs that he’ll be a more than competent backup to Rubio, who, according to Jon Krawcynski of the Associated Press, has already started light practice workouts.

“Just having them five-on-(none) gives you a sense that when you get them back we’ll be pretty good,” Adelman said of having both Love and Rubio on the practice court. “We can’t wait for them. We have to go out there and play. But it gives us a sense.”

Love is expected back at the start of December and Rubio potentially a couple of weeks later, which couldn’t come at a better time. After winning five of their first seven games, the Timberwolves have dropped two straight.

Getting by with a shorthanded roster can last for only so long. Nikola Pekovic, not exactly a household name, leads the team in scoring (15.3), with Kirilenko (14.1), Luke Ridnour (11.4), Shved (10.4) and Derrick Williams (10.4) the only other healthy players scoring in that range.

If they can manage for another few weeks or so, at least until the first wave of reinforcements arrive, both the Bobcats and Timberwolves might remain among the teams boasting .500 or better records around Christmas, too.

Camp Questions: Will The Bobcats Put Up Fewer Mid-range Jumpers?

The Charlotte Bobcats have nowhere to go but up. Last season, they finished with the worst record in NBA history and ranked last in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

While they added No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist this summer, the Bobcats didn’t exactly upgrade their roster in a major way. But they did hire a new coach, who could make a difference, despite the fact that you’d probably never heard of him before he was hired in June.

Mike Dunlap is a numbers guy, which automatically makes him a favorite in this space. And as a numbers guy, he knows that his team had the league’s worst shot selection last year.

The Bobcats took 39.6 percent of their shots from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line), the highest rate in the league. Furthermore, only 16.3 percent of their 3-point attempts came from the corner, the lowest rate in the league. Combine those two numbers and you’ve got a pretty good formula for a pretty bad offense, no matter how much talent you may or may not have on your roster.

Highest percentage of shots from mid-range, 2011-12

Charlotte 768 2,098 36.6% 39.6%
Boston 824 1,953 42.2% 38.4%
Philadelphia 839 2,096 40.0% 38.0%
Toronto 681 1,849 36.8% 35.9%
New Orleans 714 1,790 39.9% 35.1%

%FGA = Percentage of total field goal attempts

So Dunlap is trying to change things. (more…)

Kupchak: Lakers Will Pursue Trades

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – General manager Mitch Kupchak, signaling his agreement that the Lakers need significant changes after a decisive loss in the Western Conference semifinals for the second time in as many years, said Wednesday the front office will pursue trades more aggressively than in past years.

“Why not?” he said. “Sure. We went through it last year. Other than at the trade deadline, we didn’t do anything last year. But when you lose before you think you should have lost, you have to open up all opportunities.”

Speaking at his annual post-season press conference at team headquarters following two days of exit interviews with players, Kupchak made no attempt to gloss over the fact that the Lakers need to make adjustments and that being one of the better teams in the league is not acceptable.

“There’ll be some change,” he said less than two full days after the season ended with a 4-1 loss to the Thunder, nearly one year after being swept by the Mavericks in the same second round. “We’ve got a group of players that are free agents. As you know, Ramon (Sessions) has an option in his contract that he signed with Cleveland. He can extend it a year or he can opt out. I have no idea what he’s going to do. That could be an additional free agent. There will be quite a bit of activity July 1, looking at who we can bring back and dealing with the marketplace.”

Other frank comments from Kupchak as the Lakers head into the offseason after the jump:


Blogtable: What’s Next For Lakers?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Play Lakers GM: What do you do in the wake of another West semifinal defeat?

Steve Aschburner: I start by abolishing World Peace.  Sounds nihilistic, I know. But given the rebuild/retool ahead, they don’t need Metta’s shenanigans. Then I trade Pau Gasol, maybe to Minnesota for Derrick Williams in a package. I rebuild around Andrew Bynum because Jimmy Buss will fire me if I don’t. And I ride out Kobe’s angst or swing a deal for him that makes him happy. If that’s possible in every sense. 

Fran Blinebury: I get on the phone to Orlando and find out if there’s any way to re-start the conversation for Dwight Howard.  Does it take Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol together?  Done.  Gasol is fading into the twilight of his career and for all there is to like about Bynum on the nights he plays, that happens too infrequently.  Howard has his own flaws, but combining with Kobe Bryant puts him back into the championship picture immediately, restores his damaged reputation and transitions the Lakers for the post-Kobe Era.  I also do not sign Ramon Sessions to a long-term contract at significant cost. Not nearly enough bang for the buck.


Fisher Gains A Measure Of Revenge

OKLAHOMA CITY – In the quiet of the near-empty Thunder locker room, as the last player to leave after the Monday victory that sent Oklahoma City to the Western Conference final, Derek Fisher passed on the chance to make noise. He would help beat the Lakers, but he would not bash them.

“It obviously feels good to advance and beat anybody we face,” he said.

Except that it wasn’t anybody this time. It was the team that dealt him at the trade deadline in a shock to Fisher and most around the Lakers. It was the organization that felt it needed to replace him for an upgrade at point guard and then needed to move him to clear a wide berth for Ramon Sessions to be the successor.

Surely this was not just another victory for a player who has known many.

“If I came here just to beat the Lakers, then maybe so,” Fisher said. “But the idea was to come here and have an opportunity to win a championship. That journey is still in front of us. We’ll keep working at it.”


Lakers Have No One Else To Blame But Themselves For Latest Playoff Ouster

HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — Before anyone else in Los Angeles points another finger at Pau Gasol, Mike Brown, Ramon Sessions or any of the other convenient scapegoats in the wake of a second straight second-round playoff exit, look in the mirror.

Stare long and hard and ask yourself if you didn’t see this coming. Didn’t you realize last season, when Andrew Bynum was heading to visitor’s locker room in Dallas without his jersey, that this team was fatally flawed and had no chance of overcoming its own internal obstacles?

Like an aging heavyweight champ who gets K.O.’d in his last bout and then comes back into the ring the next time without truly understanding what went wrong, the Lakers got popped against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals. This time, it came by believing in their ability to overcome any obstacle with sheer talent alone.

Avoiding the sweep this time around shouldn’t ease the sting for Lakers fans, either. They knew (better than most) what they saw from this group during last season’s semifinal flame-out against the Mavericks exposed the team’s flaws.

Why would anyone, Kobe Bryant included, be surprised at Gasol’s struggles against the Thunder when you saw him crumble against the Mavericks?

You replaced a living legend in Phil Jackson with a good coach in Brown, but if Jackson couldn’t get this team over the proverbial hump in his final season, why would anyone assume Brown would be capable of pulling it off now? And Sessions was supposed to be the anti-Derek Fisher — a younger, more athletically gifted point guard capable of matching up better against the league’s younger and more athletic guards. He proved to be just as ill-equipped to handle Russell Westbrook as Fisher would have been.

This is a mess of the Lakers’ own making, whether they admit it or not. They are the ones that tossed Jackson’s hand-picked successor, Brian Shaw, aside in favor of Brown. They saw the cracks in their foundation and opted for some instant sealant instead of legit fixes.


Quick Turnaround For Thunder, Lakers

LOS ANGELES – The Lakers and Thunder, after playing 2 hours 43 minutes without overtime Friday night, return to Staples Center tonight for Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals and the rarity of a postseason back-to-back.

It is a particular challenge for the older Lakers at a time they need a win to avoid what would be a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 deficit as the series shifts back to Oklahoma City.

“It’s going to take a mental commitment on our part in order to fight through the fatigue we might feel (Saturday),” Pau Gasol said after the Lakers grinded out a victory in Game 3. “It’s going to be all will and desire and effort. Just pushing ourselves through everything and anything that we might be feeling or going on out there.”

The Lakers are playing on consecutive days in the playoffs for the first time since May 22-23, 1999, in the second round against the Spurs.

“It’ll be a little different,” Steve Blake said of a back-to-back in the regular season compared to the playoffs. “The intensity. A back-to-back during the regular season, sometimes the first quarter can be a little bit lull. But I don’t think it’ll be that way tomorrow night.”

Other topics heading into Game 4:


Playoff Time A New Time For Sessions

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – On days like Thursday, when the shades to the second-floor office of Jeanie Buss — the Lakers’ executive vice president of business operations — are open, 10 gold championship trophies shine down on the court at the practice facility. At home games, the title banners hang prominently on an inside wall at one end of Staples Center.

Ramon Sessions notices. Not that he needed much reminding of playoff expectations after he arrived from Cleveland in a trade-deadline deal, but the pressure of delivering in the postseason has been hammered home. Little that happens in the previous months matter.

Sessions is in the playoffs for the first time anywhere as his career moves to a unique level of pressure because he replaces a point guard known for postseason clutch. That was the thing with Derek Fisher — he could drive Lakers fans mad with poor shooting and susceptible defense the first 82 games and still head into summer a hero.


Rosen’s Report: Spurs at Lakers

This game is all about jockeying for playoff position. In the homestretch, the Spurs have two goals: To stay healthy and to catch Oklahoma City and gain home court advantage throughout the Western Conference post-season tournament.

The Lakers are intent on keeping the Clippers in the rear-view mirror by securing the third seed. And in doing so, the Lakers would face Dallas in the first round, a team they’ve swept in the regular season (4-0). Also, with Kobe Bryant‘s injured shin most likely to keep him on the bench, the Lakers have another chance to develop the offensive chops of his teammates — something that would undoubtedly make L.A. even tougher to beat in the playoffs.


Blogtable: Who’s Running on Empty?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

We’re near the end of a crazy, compacted season. Give us a player who has been heavily leaned-on during this breakneck schedule who may be in danger of flaming out in the playoffs.

Steve Aschburner: The easy answer would be Kobe Bryant, given his minutes, his advanced years and his usage rate for the Lakers. Baron Davis might experience a shock to his system, taking on the stretch-drive load that the Knicks need now with Jeremy Lin sidelined. But neither of those is my final answer. I’m going with Chicago forward Luol Deng, who is trying to make it through most of the season, whatever playoff push the Bulls enjoy and the 2012 London Olympics playing with a torn ligament in his left wrist. Surgery would have wiped out most or all of that for Deng, the most used (39.0 mpg) and versatile tool in Tom Thibodeau‘s belt. But just because Kobe played through something similar once doesn’t mean most mortals can do that. Deng feels it every time he falls or takes a whack on that wrist, and it has affected some of his moves on the court.

Fran Blinebury: If Kobe has a few more 3-for-20 shooting nights and the Lakers lose in the playoffs, is he the “flame-out” you’re looking for?  Can Lamar Odom qualify as a “flame-out” if he’s been just a soggy pack of matches all season? If you’re looking for someone who needs to stop playing games, get his head screwed on straight and deliver in the playoffs, well, there’s that infamous 3-point shooter Mr. Bynum.  He could be the difference in the Lakers making a real run at The Finals or crashing and burning early.

Scott Howard-Cooper: Bad trend for Jameer Nelson: He has shot worse than 38 percent in two of the last three playoffs. Bad trend for the Magic.

Shaun Powell: I wonder about Chris Paul, never accused of being the sturdiest player in his career, continuing to play at a high level without Chauncey Billups. He does have Randy Foye and Mo Williams for relief, but neither can run the team or involve teammates quite like Paul; the Clippers suffer when he isn’t on the floor. He has led this late charge (six straight wins) that rescued Vinny Del Negro and the club from flirting with disaster; will he feel the effects in May? Possibly. (more…)