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Bucks hope to see better play from point guards

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McClatchy Tribune
March 24, 2009
— After moving into the Milwaukee Bucks’ starting lineup earlier this season, Ramon Sessions caught more than a few teams by surprise.

He dropped 44 points on Allen Iverson and the Detroit Pistons on Feb. 7, and the 6-foot-3 Sessions had 15 points and a season-high 17 assists against Indiana. He scored 27 points and added eight assists in a victory over Denver in late February.


But the element of surprise is gone now, and the second-year point guard suddenly is struggling.


Sessions shot just 10 for 33 in the final four games of the Bucks’ recently completed home stand, and he committed a team-high seven turnovers in Milwaukee’s 96-84 loss Saturday night to Portland.


Backup point guard Luke Ridnour also is having trouble hitting his shots, going 11 for 35 over the last four games.


“Our play at that spot has to get better, there’s no doubt about it; both guys,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said after practice Monday at the Cousins Center.


Point guard play is an urgent concern because the Bucks still have a chance in the Eastern Conference playoff race, despite going 3-9 over their last 12 games. The Bucks open a crucial four-game trip Wednesday night in Toronto.


“It’s a maturation process,” Skiles said of Sessions’ recent woes. “There finally becomes a book on you. You’ve played enough that people know what you do.


“They take it away from you, and you’ve got to make adjustments accordingly.”


Sessions had two turnovers early in the third quarter against Portland, and also saw a fast-break chance snuffed on a blocked shot by Trail Blazers center Joel Przybilla.


“They’re being big and seeing if he can finish over them,” Skiles said of opposing big men. “They do that with all point guards. You develop other ways to get fouled or different ways to finish. It comes with growing up in the league.”


One of Sessions’ great assets is his ability to penetrate the paint and finish at the rim or draw fouls. He has attempted 302 free throws, second on the team to Richard Jefferson, and is shooting 78.5 percent at the line.


“It’s playoff basketball now, and the referees are letting a lot of that go,” Sessions said. “I’ve never experienced the playoffs, but I feel like that’s how they’re calling it now.


“Earlier in the season those same plays were getting calls. It’s a little different now, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”


Opponents also are trying to double-team him quickly and nullify his effectiveness in the high pick-and-roll game.


“In a lot of games he’s made good decisions with regard to that,” Skiles said.


It’s clear that most NBA teams are content to let Sessions take a 15- to 18-foot jump shot, rather than allow him into the lane where he’s likely to score or dish to an open teammate.


Bill Peterson, the Bucks’ assistant coach for player development, has worked hours after practice with Sessions on his jump shot, and the South Carolina native said it would be his primary focus in offseason workouts.


“That’s going to throw everything off (for opponents),” Sessions said. “Once I get that going, it’s going to be good. I feel like it’s getting better. Just having all summer to work on that is going to be great.”


Skiles said he was considering a lineup change or two as the Bucks try to gain ground on the Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Bobcats in the race for the eighth spot in the conference. That could involve Ridnour returning to the starting point guard spot with Sessions coming off the bench.


“We’re considering everything right now,” Skiles said, “not because anybody in the lineup deserves to come out, or for that matter, anybody off the bench necessarily deserves to start. Sometimes just changing the rotations can help.”


Sessions said he took it as a compliment that he’s part of an opposing team’s game plan. He has demanded attention with his play and is averaging 12 points, 5.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 turnovers in 68 games.


“Ramon is a good worker,” Skiles said. “He hasn’t been through anything like this before. He’s starting on a team that’s fighting for a playoff spot, and every team we’re playing is playing for something as well. They’re doing whatever they can to stop him.”



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