These days, Ramon Sessions finds himself a long way from the bright lights and star-filled locker room of the Los Angeles Lakers. He's traded a starting job on the NBA's glamour roster for one on the NBA's worst team – and somehow that's just fine with him.
Sessions could have returned to the Lakers this season, but instead opted out of the $4.5 million final year of his contract to test the free-agent market. A concern of the Lakers trading him, a desire for more contract security and a chance to play near home have made Sessions comfortable with his decision to sign a two-year, $10 million deal with the Bobcats.
"It wasn't hard," Sessions told Yahoo! Sports. "Myself being around the league for six years or so, five different teams, it is what it is. I'm not worried about [what people think]. As long as the name is still on the back of the jersey, that's what I'm worrying about."
Sessions spent his first 4½ seasons shuttling from the Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as the D-League. The Cavaliers traded him to the Lakers at the trade deadline last season – just as the Lakers were sending veteran point guard Derek Fisher to the Houston Rockets.
At the time, Sessions called his trade to the Lakers "a dream come true," and he didn't seem fazed by the pressure that came with it.
"I don't think it's pressure," Sessions said shortly after the trade. "If it is, I really enjoy it and thrive for that stuff. I'm a competitor. Right now, I'm at the highest stage you can play in, in the NBA being on a championship-caliber team and being the star point guard for it. It's definitely a challenge I look forward to."
Sessions, however, had never played in the playoffs before, and he eventually learned just how much of a challenge he was facing. He says a lack of practice time made it impossible to master all of the Lakers' plays by the time the postseason arrived. He averaged 11.7 points and four assists in the seven-game, first-round series against the Denver Nuggets. And in the second round against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he digressed with four points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field and three assists total in losses in the first two games before logging an average of 10 points and 4 assists the last three contests as the Lakers were ousted.
"As a point guard I always like to know what's going on with everybody," Sessions said. "I was out there second-guessing myself like, 'Is he really going to be there?' Or, 'What spot will he be in?' It was different because I really didn't practice much with them."
Said Lakers coach Mike Brown: "It was not only his first playoffs, but he was starting for the Lakers. He was good at times and, at times, he wasn't."
Bryant also was extremely demanding of Sessions, several Lakers sources said. Bryant spoke positively about Sessions after the Lakers acquired the point guard, but sources said that once Sessions began struggling in the playoffs, Bryant lost confidence in him – and wasn't shy about voicing his displeasure.
"It's definitely different playing with a guy like him, a guy that's real competitive," Sessions said of Bryant. "On any night he could score 50 points. It was definitely an experience I will remember and learned a lot from."
Sessions said he had a positive postseason meeting with Lakers officials, but he still wasn't confident he remained in their future plans.
Worried that he could be traded, Sessions opted out of the final year of his contract. Even if he hadn't, Sessions believed the Lakers could have dealt him to get a marquee point guard in free agency like Steve Nash or Deron Williams in a sign-and-trade deal.
"It was one of those situations I looked at like, 'If I do come back what if they trade me?' " Sessions said. "There were talks about getting Deron. They always wanted the bigger-named guy. What if I get traded to a team and it's my contract year? It was one of those things that I can't say if I opted in, [Nash] wouldn't have come. They still might have tried to get him. You just never know."
Sessions said the Bobcats aggressively pursued him from the moment free agency began. Charlotte had the worst winning percentage in NBA history (.106) during the lockout-shortened season. Still, Sessions enthusiastically agreed join the Bobcats, who are close to his hometown of Myrtle Beach, S.C. New Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said Sessions will be counted on to lead this season. The Lakers have replaced Sessions with a veteran point guard who can live up to Bryant's demands in Nash.
"It's one of those things where I knew what I was getting myself into when I did it," Sessions said. "I signed with Charlotte and the past is the past."
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