Changing Of The Guard: Lakers Acquire Sessions, Trade Fisher

Darius Soriano —  March 15, 2012

The trade deadline has come and gone and it’s bitter-sweet to be sure as the Lakers added a player that should help them a great deal but traded a player that has meant so much to their organization for so long.

In a deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Lakers acquired the point guard help they’ve sought, adding Ramon Sessions. Sessions has a variety of useful skills that will help this team. He’s a penetrating guard that can work in the pick and roll both as a set up man and as a finisher. When he turns the corner he’s a threat to get all the way to the rim to finish and that skill alone means the defense will need to make hard choices in terms of helping, especially those players guarding Pau and/or Bynum. He’s also a very good passer that reads plays ahead of time, meaning he rewards his teammates that move off the ball and dash into open space by hitting them on time with passes that allow them to finish easily. Basically, he’s a PG in the truest sense and for a team that’s moved to a more traditional offense this season, his skill set is a nice match for this team.

Of course, Sessions isn’t the perfect player and there’s a reason the Lakers could get him in the deal they did. Though he’s making over 40% of his three pointers this season, historically his jumper is shaky. If teams don’t respect his ability to hit the open J, the already dicey spacing exhibited on many Laker possessions will only be worse. This can be off-set somewhat by his ability to attack off the dribble because when defenses don’t close out he can hurt them but getting into paint or forcing help when he puts the ball on the floor, but he’ll need to make defenses pay with his jumper to truly be the player the Lakers need on offense. Defensively, his reputation is also of someone that doesn’t have good instincts and will make mistakes on that side of the floor. He’s not known to navigate screens well and his thin frame allows him to be overpowered by stronger guards. Of course, defending the elite class of PG’s in this league is a team effort and if Sessions can be brought up to speed on that side of the floor he may end up being a neutral defender. Which, if he’s helping on offense as much as he’s capable of, will be a net positive in the end.

Where Sessions acquisition would have caused the most issues was how he got integrated into a lineup that already had Derek Fisher and Steve Blake at his position. By my math, without trading or demoting one of those players, the Lakers had one PG too many and would need to sort that out. The Lakers, though, must have been thinking the same thing when right before the trade deadline came to pass it was announced that the team traded Derek Fisher and the Mavericks 1st round pick acquired in the Odom trade to the Rockets for PF/C Jordan Hill.

At this point, it’s safe to assume that the Lakers simply did not want to deal with the politics of demoting Fisher, a player whose voice is respected in the lockerroom and who provided leadership as both a veteran and a champion. Fisher is a prideful player and while his play has been in decline, he was still a key figure that his team rallied around when times got hard. With Sessions now in the fold and Steve Blake not dealt away, Fisher suddenly became the least productive player in a three man PG rotation and would have surely been the player whose minutes got cut.

But how do you ease him out of the lineup? How do you tell one of your leaders that his time as an on court performer is up and that he must recede to background while other, younger options take his minutes and his role? The fact is that for a first year coach and someone that doesn’t have nearly the clout in the locker room as the player he’d be demoting, there’s no good way to do this. At least not one that doesn’t risk a divided locker room with players potentially taking sides. The easiest thing to do, then, is to trade that player away and save yourself the difficult conversation and potential repercussions of demotion.

And so, the Lakers have traded away one of their leaders. Derek Fisher contributed to 5 championship teams. His shots against the Magic in game 4 of the 2009 Finals that forced overtime and then won the game will live forever. As will his game 3 performance against the Celtics a year later that clinched the game and put the Lakers up 2-1 in a Finals they ultimately won. Add in his historically hot shooting in 2001 that helped carry his team to an unprecedented 15-1 record in the playoffs and Fisher is a Laker legend. He’s on the Mt. Rushmore of Lakers role players. And now he’s headed to Houston for a serviceable big man.

There was a changing of the guard today for the Lakers. They’re probably better on paper than they’ve been in a year and a half and that’s certainly worth something. However, they’re certainly also lighter in the leadership department and definitely in the intangible qualities of having a guy on board that’s not only been there before but made sure the team left with the hardware. As I said earlier, it’s a bitter-sweet day to be a Lakers fan.


Darius Soriano

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237 responses to Changing Of The Guard: Lakers Acquire Sessions, Trade Fisher

  1. Lakers A-
    Cleveland D+
    Houston B+

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  2. Raydiaz1238,
    Deron Williams is a pretty good PG and his team is awful. I don’t need to touch the flame to know is hot. I don’t need to see a game to know Session’s will make a world of difference for us

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  3. rr#205, how about Clippers? A- too?

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  4. Thanks rr

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  5. Hollinger excerpt:

    I understand the sentiment in L.A. regarding Fisher’s departure, and you wish it could have been handled more delicately. But in terms of the business side, this was a no-brainer. Fisher has a player efficiency rating (PER) of 9.01 and Blake’s is 8.87; among point guards with at least 750 minutes, only Orlando’s ridiculous Chris Duhon has been worse. Fisher barely scores half as often as he did in 2007-08, his first season back in L.A., and with a lower true shooting percentage and more turnovers. His 3-point shooting, his “specialty,” has also fallen to 32.4 percent.

    Replacing that dynamic duo with a point guard with a 16.44 PER provides a massive shot in the arm. Per minute Sessions averages nearly twice as many points and provides huge advantages in assists and rebounds too. There’s no way this won’t translate to the Lakers’ win total, even if he is less productive in their system than he was in Cleveland.

    Similarly, Hill isn’t exactly going gangbusters — he gets pushed around on defense pretty easily and he is often out of position. Big picture, he’s something of a “4.5” who lacks the skill for a 4 or the beef to play 5.

    But compared with Murphy, this guy will look like Bill Russell. Hill averages 13 points per 40 minutes, nearly double that of Murphy or McRoberts, and his 13 boards per 40 minutes is also an improvement of more than 50 percent. Playing off the ball, running and finishing — he can do those things, and likely won’t have a major adjustment coming to the Lakers.

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  6. 198,

    The Stepien rule says teams can’t trade first-round picks if they could be left without one in consecutive years. The rule looks only to the future — teams that traded their 2010 picks can still trade their 2011 picks. But teams that already have traded their 2011 picks can’t trade their 2012 picks. Once the 2011 draft is complete and a team’s 2011 pick is no longer a future pick, it is free to trade its 2012 pick.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/celtics/tag/_/name/draft-picks

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  7. It must be a terrible feeling for veterans like Kapono and Walton to be traded together with the 1st round draft pick. It hurts more on Fisher who has been with the Lakers since 1996, then came back in 2007 to be traded to Jordan Hill, Jordan who? together with the 1st round draft pick. Don’t know whether Cavs or Rockets were really interested of our players or the unknown draft picks. It is a sign of saying goodbye to NBA. Fans are now bading goodbye for those sweet memories, players get older, life goes on in NBA business.

    What is scary is after Kobe and Gasol? Will they spend to acquire talent or just keep the team afloat for profit.

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  8. Robert,

    How about your dream player of D12? the 12 means a dozen ways of changing decisions and on the trade day, he decided with Orlando for 2 more seasons. Good decision but where is his credibility to NBA teams? Whether a teammate or from a GM, who would ever trust the fickle-minded Super Howdy?

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  9. 200 Brian,

    I think you were referring to the Blazer on Fisher’s contract. When the 3 team trade deal was not moving, Minny was more worried on the health of Crawford, the player that they’re acquiring. Lakers offered Fisher to Blazers for Crawford straight up and Blazers turned it down because of additional one more season on Fisher’s contract. If it were an expiring contract, we could have gotten Crawford. That could have been a fantastic acquisition for the 2nd unit.

    Mitch does not want to waste salaries, he was really determined to unload Fisher if they have already two PG’s. I think if Blake was traded then Fisher will still be here, just my speculation.

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  10. What a coincidence that three former Lakers, members of Laker Scrubs of ’06, ’07 were traded today – Kwame, Cookie and Luke. They still have values as fillers.

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  11. Edwin: Of course I am a little disappointed, but I am reasonably satisfied with what we ended up with. What we received is decent (needed Sessions), + while I liked LW, losing his contract was good. Did not want to lose Fish, would have rather sent Blake. Kapono is out of my sight – so that is good. D12 handled the situation poorly + of the major players involved, we came out pretty good (Mavs, Nets were losers). I will move forward cautiously optimistically : )

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  12. If we don’t win it all, this year will be remembered as the year we threw away our locker room.

    No Phil, no Odom, no Fisher and no Walton.

    Wow.

    But if we can somehow move past that chemistry in the locker room part…

    Wow again.

    How did this exactly work? We kept our big three, we shed some really bad contracts (though they would’ve been trade assets next year IF we were thinking about taking on even MORE salary), we traded an ancient Fisher for a young Sessions…

    Somewhere, Cuban and Popovich are really mad… except of course, we don’t know the kind of chemistry issues this will cause.

    I just hope it doesn’t steer Kobe off his current course of trusting Bynum more.

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  13. 216,

    Harold, we can also interpret in another way. If Lakers stucked with slow-footed players, benchwarmers – there maybe good camaraderie in the locker room, on the bench and on the plane during road games. On the other picture, if Lakers will continue losing on the road or win a road game through OT’s, undue exposure on our Big 3, very soon that camaraderie will be converted to sour gripes that Mitch did not provide any help at the time they needed it most. As they say, winning cures all ills.

    I hope Fisher will come back someday to the Lakers as an Asst Coach or as a Laker FO assistant or scout. His basketball mind and his leadership in the union collective bargaining is an asset to any franchise.

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  14. Warren Wee Lim March 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    To Derek and Luke: Thanks for the memories. I shall never forget what you’ve contributed for us… through thick and thin.

    To Laker fans who are more emotional rather than rational: get a grip. The Lakers owned the trade deadline.

    Consider what you gave up and what you got, its like the Lakers used 2 late picks to pick 2 very solid 25yos… while dumping Kapono, Walton and Fisher’s contracts.

    I miss Fish already… probably more than the next guy… but this move by Mitch Kupchak = BRILLIANT. Hat tip.

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  15. One other thing the trading of Fisher will do for LA is allow Drew to have a bigger leadership role on the team. Bynum has never come off to me as one to swallow his tongue. He has been very candid when asked difficult question about the team or himself, when there is no right or wrong answer. Not throwing teammates under the bus, but putting the onus of bad team performances on his back and what he could have done better to help this team improve..

    As long as Fish was on the team him and Kobe voices would have carried the most weight in the lockerroom, now is the time to see if the kid has the goods to carry the torch.

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  16. Man o man I keep thinking what a FANTASTIC trade! Thank you Sam Gilbert (you are still a pathetic simulation of a human being, however).

    There must be a catch – it seems too good to be true. The Lakers evidently shed salary, definitely shed non performers, retain their Big Three, get younger and more capable. What’s not to love about this move?

    Oh, I know, I know, Stern was acting as the “super GM” of the Hornets or some such utter nonsense when he killed the CP3 deal. But seriously, he won’t mess with this deal will he?

    Regarding Derek Fisher, I seriously think the world is his oyster. He’s going to have a fine career in management in one form or another, inside or outside of Basketball.

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  17. Reading some of the comments that says Sessions isn’t a top 10 PG etc. Well when you have a top 2 center , top 2 shooting guard and top 5 PF you don’t need a top 10 PG. You just need a good one and now we have one.

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  18. Frank the Tank March 15, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Now we just have to hope Miami doesn’t get Kaman. That would just be unfair.

    Also, RE Sessions:

    On April 14, 2008, Sessions scored a then career-high 20 points, adding 8 rebounds and a Milwaukee Bucks franchise-record 24 assists against the Chicago Bulls in a 151-135 home loss.His double-double performance was also the first “20-20” with points and assists in Bucks history. On February 7, 2009 in an overtime loss against the Detroit Pistons, he scored 44 points On April 1, 2009, Sessions recorded his first career triple-double against the Los Angeles Lakers scoring 16 points with 16 assists and 10 rebounds.

    This is with crappy teams. The kid can ball. I can’t wait to see him on the floor.

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  19. I was just telling my friend how it “sucks for the Lakers to do Fish like this”. My friend responded “Aaron, they have paid Fisher to be the Lakers starting PG for three years while being the worst PG in the league. He owes them.” That changed my mind on this. Does it yours?

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  20. Michael H,
    You might want to add that being the 25th best PG is basically being the 7th best Center. You’re damn good if you’re the 25th best PG in today’s nBA. And Sessions might turn out to be a top 15 PG. He is 25 years old and was averaging 17 and 11 in games started this year. The only reason he is available is because the Cavs had the number one pic in the draft this passed summer.

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  21. Steve Blake makes more money than Fisher and we know what Fisher does in the playoffs. Blake has been a bust so far in Lakerland. Nobody knows how Sessions fits in with this team.

    Celtics traded Perkins and everyone thought Celtics got more athletic and dynamic. Celtics haven’t been the same since. Will adding Sessions mean Lakers will avg. more than 92 points the rest of the way? Fisher was way undervalued by Lakers fans.

    And the fact everyone says Fisher wouldn’t of accepted a lesser role or no role don’t know that. Nobody asked him you can’t assumed he would’ve caused trouble.

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  22. Aaron you a wild dude, you know you made up an imaginary friend to throw a shot at ole Fish one last time. Your crazy man, but it is true and pretty funny.

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  23. ThaNCDon,
    Haha… I swear that just happened. I swear. But I am crazy.

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  24. Btw… The people I thought would be happy about these two moves are… I am not suprised. Btw… For the record I did a write up six weeks ago on this site on Fishers time in la and thanking him for it when I knew the writing was on the wall. We knew he wouldn’t play again after the trade deadline. I don’t know why people are amazed he won’t be playing again for us. We of. Course though thought he would still be on the bench.

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  25. Frank the Tank March 15, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/lakersnow/la-sp-ln-lakers-were-close-on-beasley-20120315,0,5069202.story

    Looks like we had Beasley and Minnesotas owner backed out last minute. I’m still a little bummed about this, I feel like that would’ve been a bigger upgrade than Hill but oh well. At least we have a backup big, we shall see if he can play.

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  26. The way I figured it is we just gained 40 points a game. The 15 we get from Sessions and the 25 we lost from who ever Fisher was trying to guard.

    Fisher, Walton and Kapono were the three nicest guys on the team.

    Yea that’s right nice guys finish short of the basket.

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  27. I’m very intrigued as to how Kobe will react to all these trades. He might not say it thru the media, but we will see it in his actions for the coming games on 1) what he does on the court and on the locker room as for Fish’s departure 2) being the leader on and off the court, how he welcomes/integrates sessions as being the primary ball handler and decision maker on the court.

    As for Sessions, the defensive scouting report mentioned about him was with his former bad teams and as a shooting guard. I think with more rim protection, better overall team defense, he will become an average to above average defender. On offense, with 3 all-world passing options, I believe his assist #s will increase, as well as his ppg ave, since defenders will have to stay home on drew pau and kobe. more driving lanes and spot up options for Sessions

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  28. Thanks Fisher. Your jersey will soon be up there among Magic, Kareem and Worthy.

    Moving on, what a great deal, Mitch!!!!

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  29. Sessions will be getting some intense instruction in the Brown defensive playbook. Hope he proves to be a quick student. Hill and Pau might form a good combo, with complementing strengths. Still a spot open for a good shooting #2 who can play tough D. Ebanks has been a big disappointment here.

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  30. Beasley and Sessions both?

    That would have been interesting.

    What the Lakers ended up with is pretty sweet, though.

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  31. A fond memory:

    Aaron wrote on June 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    I think everyone here knows how surprised I am that Fisher could hit those shots………. with those grapefruit sized balls hanging down between his legs!!!!! This wasn’t Fisher hitting a couple wide open spot up clutch shots as we’ve seen so many times from him before. This wasn’t Fisher taking the big time charge late in the game. This wasn’t Fisher getting the big steal (ala Artest knocking it off Big Baby). This was Derek Fisher taking over the entire last five minutes of the ball game like Chris Paul. He was taking it to the basket, coming off of pick and rolls, and pulling up for tough 15 footers. This wasn’t Fisher playing like a good NBA PG, this wasn’t Fisher playing like an All Star PG, this wasn’t Fisher even playing like a Hall of Famer. This was Derek Fisher playing like a legend. In one of the biggest quarters this historic Lakers franchise has ever seen… we saw Derek Fisher play one of the best quarters a Laker has ever played. At a time when Kobe wasn’t Kobe… Derek Fisher was.

    … I will never again say one bad thing about him… I was wrong

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  32. Derek… Thanks for finding that. I remember writing that like it was yesterday. All of that was true except for me saying I was wrong. Haha. I wasn’t. I was just being a prisoner of the moment. If Sessions was on the team them we win game one with Ray Allen not torching Fisher and we don’t need that forth quarter by Fish. But everytng else was exactly that. Spot on. . But that was the best performance By a role player of all time. By far. Thanks for finding that.

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  33. Marques, I think you are right to a certain extent. How can a PG that needs the ball be effective and coexist with Kobe? I highly doubt Sessions will duplicate his stats in Cleveland here, but one thing that Sessions will help with is be the playmaker when Kobe is out, and this will help run the offense better when Kobe goes out, in turn letting Brown play Kobe fewer minutes. I am always amazed at Kobe’s conditioning, but with the compressed scheduled this year, even Kobe is going to run out of gas, as he has several times this year, if he has to play the entire second half of every game and initiate the offense constantly, like he just did with memphis and hornets. So, I expect Sessions’ best moments will be when Kobe is on the bench, hopefully now for more than 12 minutes on average. Kobe will still get the ball and initiate the offense 70-80% of the time when he is on the floor and Sessions the other 20%-30%. Even though 20-30% may not sound like much, at least we now have a PG who can penetrate and dish. I cannot remember the last time Fish or Blake went to the basket for a layup or drew the defense for a classic PG dish. I just hope Brown plays Sessions mostly as the PG when Kobe is off the Floor, not Blake. Let’s face it, until now, Kobe was effectively our PG when he was on the floor, except for the first few seconds when Blake or Fish brought the ball up the floor. But some of that is due to Blake and Fish not having PG skills, and the rest of it due to, well, Kobe being Kobe, a ball hog with tremendous skills you cannot ignore!

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  34. Celtics haven’t been the same since.

    Sure. Because they got a guy who is worse than Perkins and didn’t cover Perkins’ position. The Lakers got a guy better than Fisher is and plays the same position.

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  35. 230 LOL seriously funny,

    “The way I figured it is we just gained 40 points a game. The 15 we get from Sessions and the 25 we lost from who ever Fisher was trying to guard.”

    Hate to see Fish gone, but he’s a businessman he know’s this is a good move himself. He will return, Lakerland loves and respects him but as artist Rose Royce says “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.”

    We need another ring!

    I like the Sessions aquisition :} In fact can’t wait to see him start. No offense to Blake but he just doesn’t appear to be a starter in the NBA but great backup guy. He still has room for great improvement and seems to have huge determination. So anything possible for him.

    This will be much better for Kobe, and makes Gasol feel more loved, and Bynum feel like the rising King.. So we have a lot going on here. Here’s how I see it.

    Kobe 10/22 shooting 30points
    Bynum 10/15 shooting 25 points
    Gason 8/16 shooting 20 points
    Sessions 6/12shooting 15points
    Artest 4/9 shooting 10points

    Bench 5/15shooting 12 points

    Lakers 112 points per game…….SHOWTIME!!

    NO I DIDN’T MEAN SHOWTIME LIKE MAGIC DAYS!!! But better than the fisher/blake bengay show..

    I’m pleased… little ole me is pleased Mitch and Buss/

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  36. kswagger @ 231 – I’ve been thinking Kobe is gonna be EXTRA fueled to face teams now. He’s lost his running partner from back when Biggie was still with us. I’m feeling some deep loss about Fish’s departure. I had resisted the anger I’ve seen from many on this blog to dump Fish coz I believed he’d earned the right to go out on his own terms. However, this year I’ve also been yearning for Sessions. I think he’s a great acquisition and takes us right into the highest echelon of teams of the NBA. To get Jordan Hill also, while divesting ourselves of the Luke contract and Fish’s contract, are incredible.

    I am a little unhappy about the trade of Fish. I don’t think Fish would have taken a demotion badly. He’s too much of a man to take such an important decision so immaturely. If he was truly so deluded that he thought he deserved the starting PG position on the Los Angeles Lakers, he would truly have been insane. I think Mike Brown didn’t have the cojones to talk to him, as Brown doesn’t have the cojones to encourage Kobe not to “Go Kobe” when the Lakers go down big. Phil had the cojones, Brown doesn’t. I think Fish would have taken it like a man. And if Fish had taken it like a man, the rest of the team would have fallen in line.

    All that said, kudos to Derek. He’s 7 months older than me and so I’ve always felt an affinity to him. He always had brass rocks and while I’ve been tough on him this last year, his contribution to the Lakers over the years will not be soon forgotten. When the Rockets come back to the Staples Center April 2, I know I’ll be teary-eyed. From your clutch floor leadership in those early ’00s championships to the gutty contributions of the ’09 and ’10 championships, thanks so much Derek Fisher. You’re truly an admirable man.

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