The playoff nostalgia has swept Lakers guard Ramon Sessions everywhere he goes.
Shortly after he joined the Lakers from a trade a little more than two months ago, Sessions bought a television set for a local bar named Wagon Wheel in his hometown in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The enthusiasm for the purple and gold has spread so much that Sessions describes it as a “Laker town.”
As soon as the Lakers officially clinched a playoff berth, Sessions immediately sensed he had turned a corner after toiling with non-playoff teams, such as the Milwaukee Bucks (2007-09), Minnesota Timberwolves (2009-10) and Cleveland Cavaliers (2010-12). “It’s a check off my career,” Sessions said.
And once Sessions planned to watch opening day of the NBA playoffs following Saturday’s practice, he imagined instant reminders that he’s finally playing in the postseason too.
Yes, everyone in Lakerland loves this time of year when fans wave their flags, the Staples Center crowd actually pays attention to the games and the players do too. But as far as feeling excited about it? Sessions’ veteran teammates hold that feeling until June, once they pour champagne in the locker room and then ride a float during the championship parade down Figueroa Street.
How will Sessions feel when the Lakers host Game 1 at Staples Center on Sunday of their first-round series against the Denver Nuggets?
“I don’t know,” Sessions said. “It’ll probably be one of those things where I’m anxious to get up in the morning and get it started.”
How Sessions channels that excited energy remains to be seen. He’ll match up with Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, who ranks 10th among league point guards in points per game (16.4) and 11th in assists (6.6). Although Sessions has the same playoff inexperience as Lawson, the Lakers guard has appeared overmatched in defending speedy guards, such as Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker. Even Lawson’s four-of-14 clip against Sessions in the Lakers’ 103-97 victory April 13 to Denver featured the Nuggets guard mostly missing open shots.
Sessions has concerns extending beyond whether he can force Lawson into being more of a facilitator than a scorer during pick-and-roll coverages. In the last five games, Sessions’ offensive output in points per game (9.2) and shooting percentage (41.7%) marks a severe drop in the 12.7 points he’s posted on the 47.9% clip he provided through 23 games with the Lakers ever since they acquired him in a trade from Cleveland. Sessions shows continual adjustment in tempering his speed since the Lakers’ frontline can’t keep up with him.
At least Sessions reports his previously sprained left shoulder feels 100% after ditching the protective pad last week. But it remains to be seen whether Sessions’ game will be at full strength too.
“It’s still a game,” Sessions said. “I’ll just go out and play basketball.”
Sessions will soon find out how much different playoff basketball entails, and whether he’ll channel his excitement into properly adjusting to it.
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