Ramon Sessions

Does Ramon Sessions make the Lakers second best in West?

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Since the day the lockout ended, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been the team to beat in the Western Conference. And while we can pick apart the Thunder’s flaws — they have gotten pushed around in the paint of late — their status as the top dog has never been in question.

But who is the second best team in the West?

It looked like maybe the Clippers for a while, but their offense has faded and their defense (and coaching?) exposed. Look at the standings and they say it’s the Spurs, and certainly they have been good this season, but the question remains if they have fixed their flaws from last playoffs — if they run into the Grizzlies or Lakers, two teams that get a lot of offense from bigs in the paint, can the Spurs really stop them?

Then there are the Lakers. At moments (particularly at home) they looked the part, then they go out and lose to Washington and Detroit and most recently a Rockets team missing its starting backcourt. It’s been hard to take them seriously because of consistency and play on the road.

But does Ramon Sessions change that?

Maybe. The Lakers defense has been solid all season, and in spots quite good. But their offense has been pedestrian — 16th in the NBA at 101.5 points per 100 possessions so far this season (via Hoopdata).

However, if you watched the Lakers the last few days when Sessions was on the floor, you could just tell things flowed better. His quickness and passing skills suddenly make Mike Brown’s offense work. In a fantastic post at Sports Illustrated Zach Lowe has the numbers.

But in the 100 minutes Sessions has played, the Lakers have scored 114 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would lead the league by a mile, according to NBA.com’s stats tool. The Lakers have been more efficient in just about every way possible during those 100 minutes…

They have shot many more threes per minute with Sessions on the floor and made them at a very high rate. This is a great thing for a team that has been one of the two or three worst three-point-shooting teams all season… The Lakers have attempted the equivalent of 20 threes per 48 minutes with Sessions manning the point, and they have hit 48 percent of them. In the 92 minutes Sessions has sat during those four games, the Lakers are still the Lakers, clanking away to the tune of 25 percent from deep on just 14.6 tries.

Yes, all these numbers are some Small Sample Size Theater. Yes, they’ve come against some pretty blah defenses for the most part. This is not how things are going to look exactly in five weeks when the playoffs start.

But soon Sessions will be getting the bulk of the minutes at the point for the Lakers and if he can raise the Lakers offense up to just good, they become the biggest threat to the Thunder in the West. And then we can all overanalyze how much of a role Derek Fisher would play in a playoff series between the two sides.

Glenn Robinson III does his best to salvage Dunk Contest, gets victory in process

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NEW ORLEANS — This year’s NBA All-Star Dunk Contest was doomed to disappoint, it was never going to match last year’s epic battle. It started in a hole.

It never climbed out. Don’t take my word for it, check out what JaVale McGee thought.

Saturday was an underwhelming night of dunks punctuated by a couple of moments of brilliance.

The Pacers’ Glenn Robinson III had the most of those moments — which is why he won the event. His strong night started with his first dunk, which may well have been the best of the contest.

The final one from Robinson, the one that sealed the victory, may be the other best dunk of the competition — dunking over Paul George, the Pacers mascot, and a Pacers dancer.

“I originally planned for it just to be PG (Paul George),” Robinson said afterward. “I knew I had to bring out something special. We added the mascot and the cheerleader. I really just wanted to get up high and dunk that thing hard, man. My adrenaline was going. It felt like I was looking at the rim. All I knew was the crowd go crazy. I pointed like this because, man, everybody seemed to sleep on me, didn’t really think I was going to win this thing.”

Event favorite Aaron Gordon, who should have won a year ago, opened the contest with an innovative idea — a drone dunk — but he couldn’t execute it and there were a few attempts before he nailed it.

Gordon didn’t advance out of the first round, and his first dunk summed up the 2017 Dunk Contest — interesting ideas that didn’t quite pan out like planned. (To be fair, Gordon has been battling injuries recently, that may have thrown him off).

If it wasn’t going to be Gordon, a lot of people expected it to be the bouncy Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. who won, and he reached the Finals in part thanks to this spectacular dunk that woke the Smoothie King Center up.

DeAndre Jordan was okay, but without Chris Paul throwing him lobs it didn’t quite feel the same. Jordan can dunk with such power in game, but we didn’t see that Saturday.

In the end, it was Gordon who was making the plays.

“I’m not really a known dunker,” Robinson said. “I practiced. I prepared. I know I’m a jumper. And like I said, I’m a guy that stays out of the way. But when it’s time to shine, that’s my thing. That’s what I wanted to do. I knew all along I had some things planned, and I just wanted to show the world.”

Glenn Robinson III wins underwhelming dunk contest on over-people, below-rim dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — Glenn Robinson III won the dunk contest with the second-best dunk of the night, going over a few people and under the rim — a narrow path to slamming victory.

It would’ve rated as the event’s best dunk if he were truly under the rim rather than somewhat in front of it. And he did have the best body of work to win the contest.

But the best single dunk was still by runner-up Derrick Jones Jr., who went between the legs on a pass off the side of the backboard.

NBA stars shoot threes to raise $500,000 for Sager Strong Foundation in touching moment

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NEW ORLEANS — The spirit of Craig Sager is strong during All-Star weekend in The Big Easy and he’s going to get a spot in the Hall of Fame, deservedly so.

After Eric Gordon won the Three-Point Contest, he and the other finalists Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker stayed on the court to shoot threes to raise money for the Sager Strong Foundation — they would shoot threes for a minute and for each make the foundation would get $10,000. Then they brought out help — Reggie Miller, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, DJ Khaled, and others to knock down shots. That raised $130,000.

Stephen Curry tried to push that to $500,000, but it was Sager’s son that actually did it (with an assist from Shaquille O’Neal).

It was a touching moment for a great cause.

Derrick Jones Jr. catches pass off side of backboard, jams between-legs dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — With defending runner-up Aaron Gordon eliminated in the first round, Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. might be our best hope to save the dunk contest.