ESPNLosAngeles: Lakers vs. Rockets

I got together with Andy Kamenetzky of ESPNLosAngeles to discuss tonight’s huge matchup.  That conversation can be found in full at the Land o’Lakers blog:

Even if Lee starts on Bryant, rest assured Parsons will see time in that matchup. Kobe might torch him. Kobe might go cold. It doesn’t matter. As the Rockets have learned over the years, you can live with Kobe taking jump shots. If he’s on, there’s nothing anyone can do. That last game was lost by the Lakers not because the Rockets beat them but because they beat themselves. Andrew Bynum got tossed and Mike Brown inexplicably went away from Ramon Sessions when he was completely picking the Houston defense apart.

I also had a few questions for Andy myself, to run here:

Huq: What kind of impact has Sessions had on the Lakers?  After seeing him pick apart the Rockets, I thought he made the Lakers the favorites in the West.

Kamenetzky: I wouldn’t go so far as to peg the Lakers as the conference’s new sheriff in town, but Sessions definitely makes them better. Individually, he adds so many dynamics sorely missing before the deadline. Speed. A threat to attack the rim. A perimeter player not named “Kobe” or “Bryant” capable of creating his own shot or breaking down defenders in space. A second pick-and-roll ball handler — technically speaking, a third, but Pau Gasol is judicious initiating 4/5 action  — and a very good one at that. As of late, he’s also developing better chemistry with Kobe, whether running 1/2 pick-and-roll or just finding each other on the floor. In three April games, Kobe’s shooting 61.9 percent from the field. On a very related note, according to ESPN Stats and Info, 24 of his 39 buckets (61.5 percent) have been assisted, compared to 42.3 percent in December-March. Some of this is the effect of Sessions and being able to work off ball more often.

In the meantime, his outside shot has been surprisingly wet. The book on Sessions was a lack of range, but with the Lakers, he’s shooting 50 percent from 16-23 feet and 54.5 percent from downtown. It’s hard to picture him maintaining numbers that scorching, but then again, he’s never played with teammates as good as Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. As Rockets fans know all too well, a floor unit like that can make Trevor Ariza a pretty good 3 point shooter.

Defensively, he’s not especially strong, and often gets lost defending pick-and-roll. (Irony alert!) But all in all, he’s been a very positive addition, and can hopefully continue to get better as the playoffs approach.

Huq: We all heard the rumors prior to the deadline.  Obviously the acquisition of Ramon Sessions probably makes it a moot point going forward this summer, but how did Lakers observers feel about the reported Rockets’ package for Pau Gasol. Did those covering the team feel Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry was a satisfactory return?

Kamenetzky: Well, in our neck of the woods, the rumored haul was actually Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic, the original pieces heading to N’Awlins. And generally speaking, I think the consensus reaction was underwhelming. Scola is a lesser, albeit less expensive, version of Pau. Kobe and Martin (who struggles to stay healthy), are redundant to a certain degree. And while some might argue Dragic is underrated, he’s nonetheless not Lowry. The Lakers might gain some needed depth in this scenario, but nobody close to the player Pau is. My take was to pass.

Were Lowry actually on the table, however, I might have been tempted to make the deal. Even as a fan going back to his ‘Nova days, the leap he’s taken over the last two years has surprised me. Lowry’s steady improvement has been very impressive to watch. He’s only 26, entering his prime, and if never an official All-Star, Lowry could be “All-Star adjacent” enough to making relocating Pau palpable. Particularly for a team in desperate need of upgrading at the point.

Of course, Gasol/Sessions is a better duo than Lowry/Scola, and more importantly, Kobe/Pau or Bynum/Pau are better than either. Thus, events probably shook out for the better.

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