The Charlotte Bobcats are taking a risk. It’s a small, calculated risk without a ton of obvious downside, but this is a risk nevertheless.
The Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell was the first to report that the Bobcats sent slashing guard Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday for guards Gary Neal, and Luke Ridnour. Though both Neal (per his performance in last June’s NBA Finals) and Ridnour have more name recognition, by several metrics Sessions is the superior player. He is not, however, a good outside shooter, and although Neal and Ridnour are only shooting around the league average mark from long range this year, that’s still an upgrade for a Charlotte team that is third-worst in the NBA in three-point shooting.
On top of that, Sessions’ fair $5 million contract expires after this season, while Neal’s goes beyond this campaign and will pay him over $3.2 in 2014-15. Hardly a millstone, but worth considering for a small market team, as it acquires a player that has disappointed with his play this year.
Then there’s the locker room aspect. Sessions was a go-to veteran for a franchise looking to turn the corner, overachieve, and make the playoffs. From Bonnell’s Twitter account:
Sad that Ramon Sessions is leaving CLT. One of the nicest people I know. He was a big part of why that is a great locker room.
— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) February 20, 2014
Milwaukee’s frustrations spilled into the postgame locker room, where teammates Gary Neal and Larry Sanders got into a shouting match with media present. At one point, Neal yelled, “I earn my money. Why don’t you try it?”
Afterward, Bucks guard O.J. Mayo said, “A little Kumbaya. Team bonding.”
Now, for all we know Neal was completely in the right here – lashing out at a player that crippled his start to the season with a hand injury suffered in a bar fight just weeks after signing a four-year, $44 million deal. It is worth noting, though, as the go-go Bobcats (who have won six of nine) continue to improve.
Spacing has been terrible in Milwaukee this season, so it’s quite possible that both Neal and Ridnour find their touch again on a team featuring a low post demon (possibly in his finest year) in Al Jefferson, and a slasher in Kemba Walker. And although Sessions was counted on as a significant part of the rotation (he plays nearly half the game and offered 10 points and 10 assists in Charlotte’s win over Detroit on Wednesday), sopping up his minutes with both a potential shooter in Neal and pick and roll master in Ridnour could work for this team.
They’ll have to get their games back on track, though. Sadly for Milwaukee fans, a woeful franchise like Charlotte now looks like a relatively good place to start over.
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