“Good game, Sesh,” Davis says as the two bump fists and the veteran guard proceeds to take on the rest of his night.
Though Sessions’ obliged his teammates’ show of camaraderie, the fact of the matter is that he has not been the same player since Davis arrived in Cleveland earlier this month. Leading the Cavaliers in PER (18.4), Sessions was in the midst of one of his best months as a professional. In February, the 24-year old averaged 19.9 points (on 56.3 percent shooting), 8.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Since Davis’ first game in New York on March 4, Sessions is averaging 11.3 points (on 26.4 percent shooting), 3.0 assists and 3.0 turnovers per game.
Tuesday night’s 95-85 loss to the Golden State Warriors may have been rock bottom as the slashing guard hit only two of his nine shots for eight points, two assists and three turnovers.
Over the month of March, Sessions’ playing time has decreased game-over-game, recording just 21 minutes against Golden State. Conversely, the newly-acquired Davis has seen his playing time increase game-over-game, finishing with 30.5 minutes on Tuesday night – the second-highest total on the team.
Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott tells WFNY that he feels opposing defenses are merely playing Sessions differently, not letting him get the easy looks which he had grown accustomed to and “honing in.” Scott also compares Sessions’ situation to that of Samardo Samuels, another young player who – despite Scott comparing him to Kevin Love just days prior – had second-half struggles against the Warriors and finished 5-of-14 from the floor. He challenged both to make adjustments, saying that it is a product of being young players.
But in both instances, the players feel otherwise. Sessions insists that he is getting good looks, but the shots are simply not falling. And while Ramon is still taking his token six attempts per game at the rim, his number of attempts between 16-23 feet has almost doubled (4.0 FGA) compared to the month of February (2.4), showing that defenses are in fact not allowing the young guard to slash to the rim and instead forcing jump shots. Interestingly enough, this has also forced Sessions’ number of free throw attempts to drop by almost two full trips per game.
In the first quarter of Tuesday’s game, Samuels had seven points (3-for-5 from the floor) in six minutes. He would take only four shots in the entire second half. However, Samuels took full responsibility for his poor second half, telling WFNY that he tried to pass more (or be a “hub,” as Scott deems) which led to the decreased aggression.
Regardless, Sessions insists that Baron Davis brings great things to the table despite the two seemingly having a timeshare at certain points in the game.
“He’s been around, been to the playoffs – he’s a guy we can learn from,” Sessions says.
And his teammates agree. Center Ryan Hollins – who(to quote Joe Posnanski) is at times the arch-enemy of respectability – produced a season-high scoring effort thanks to Davis’ passing lanes and the infamous Lob City.
“He’s a natural leader,” says Hollins. “Setting us up the way he does, it allows us to carry momentum into the next play.”
And that momentum does not go unnoticed when it comes to crunch time minutes. Byron Scott opted to go with Davis over the struggling Sessions as his team pulled the game into a single-digit deficit after the former Clipper/Warrior/Hornet point guard would rattle off eight straight points, finishing with a team-high 19 to go with five rebounds and six assists (eerily in line with the two previous games).
The Cavaliers presently sit at 12-51 on the season. They will trek on through the duration of this year without veterans Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao. They will start – or give considerable playing time to – a variety of first- and second-year players. And while Davis may not exactly have the reputation of a hard-worker and educator of the game, he has undoubtedly accepted this role early in his days as a Cavalier.
There is no telling what the long-term future holds for Davis with regard to the Wine and Gold. But, if Byron Scott’s words last night were any indication, the short-term future will include Davis’ name being called during pre-game introductions of the Cavaliers’ starting five.
“We’re close,” said Scott. “We’re close.”
(Update: Davis’ grandmother Madea Nicholson has passed away. Davis, who chose No. 85 in her honor, did not travel with the team to Milwaukee as he returned home to Los Angeles – no return date has been set.)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)