The Kings’ second unit has struggled this season, and the player leading the reserves says he and the group need to improve.
Point guard Ramon Sessions has had an uneven start to his first season in Sacramento. At times, he has been the aggressive playmaker the Kings sought when they signed him to a two-year contract before training camp. But he has struggled with his shot (32.9 percent) in a career-low 17 minutes per game. He’s averaging 5.6 points and 2.1 assists, and two of his three double-digit scoring efforts came while starting in place of injured Darren Collison.
“I’ve got to do a little bit more than what I’m doing, of course,” Sessions said. “But when I get out there, whatever minutes I do get, take advantage of them and just try to run the second unit the best I can.”
Sessions, in his eighth NBA season, has a track record of being a solid player, which has earned him time to work his way into form.
“He’d be the first one to admit he hoped and wished he was playing better and at a more consistent level,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “He’s had some games where he’s played very well for us, he’s had some games where he hasn’t played as well, but I still believe in Ramon. I know what he is capable of doing. So I’m going to give him some opportunity to grow into that backup role and feel comfortable and confident in that role.”
Second-year guard Ray McCallum is waiting to take any minutes not given to Sessions, who is considered more skilled offensively, while McCallum is the better defender.
Defense has been a problem with the second unit in some losses, with opposing guards having their way against the Kings’ backups.
“We’re always going to evaluate and look to see who gives us the best chance to win,” Malone said. “I’ve gone to Ray at times because of his ability to guard and his ability to make plays as well.”
A right knee strain has limited Sessions recently, but he hopes he’ll be closer to 100 percent soon.
Sessions sees the Kings’ bench improving with time. Sessions, Nik Stauskas and Omri Casspi are second-unit players new to the Kings. Carl Landry has a key role, but he played in only 18 games last season because of injuries.
“We’ve been together long enough now, and we’ve had enough practices to where they should know each other and how to play off each other,” Malone said. “I think they go out there and they struggle sometimes defensively, and other teams get out and score on us, and it becomes a snowball effect at times.”
Often there isn’t a dominant King on the court who will draw a double team, so transitions and running the offense precisely are important.
“It’s one of those things I definitely put on my shoulders,” Sessions said. “We’ve just got to get it going. It’s still early on, but it’s one of those things that as the season goes it will definitely get better.”
Landry has been reliable as a post threat, but the Kings need Sessions to play closer to his past form. For his career, he averages 11.5 points and 4.6 assists.
“Ramon has to be that other piece of that unit to provide a spark, to get to the free-throw line, be an attack player for us because that’s when he’s at his best,” Malone said.
Sessions has played long enough not to panic over a slow start. Just a little more than a month ago, coaches were gushing over his solid preseason and looking forward to him making an impact playing behind and alongside Collison.
Sessions said the approach to finding his way is simple.
“Just continue to play, and when I do get out there take advantage of it,” Sessions said. “Whatever it is, just try to help the team, (even) if my numbers aren’t where they used to be. As long as we’re winning games, that’s what we want.”