Sessions vs. Ridnour? … Tough weekend ahead

Lucky Luke Ridnour or Ramon Sessions? The question of who should start at point guard has been ongoing since the Bucks traded Mo Williams to greener pastures this summer. That may surprise some, but there were more than a few Bucks fans who had realized at the end of last season that Sessions just might be the point guard of the future. To some it was never a given that Ridnour should start, even though Bucks GM John Hammond introduced Luke as the starter when the trade was made.

Now that Sessions seems to be in a groove and has picked up right where he left off at the end of last season when he averaged 13.1 assists in seven starts, JSOnline put the question to its readers in the form of a poll. The poll of the day, in Packer season, no less. After nearly 700 responses, Sessions is/was in the lead 47-44 percent, with 8 percent going to Tyrone Lue, the third string point guard (Tyrone must have family working on this).

The fact that the voting is so close ought to tell you a couple of things — it’s too early to decide and both are playing well. Thirdly, if we at Sportsbubbler had thought to give folks a minute or two break from the Packers by featuring a similar poll this week, the timing would have been perfect. We didn’t think of it, so the inescapable conclusion is that it’s just too early. The Ridnour-Sessions question isn’t going away anytime soon.

(As more people have voted in the JSOnline poll, Sessions is running away with it).

Both guys have missed two games. Sessions didn’t play at all in the first two games (coach’s decision), but started against the Raptors and Knicks as Ridnour recuperated from a back injury. Wednesday night against the Wizards, they played together for the first time this season and keyed the unit that brought the Bucks charging back in the 4th quarter to beat the Wiz in OT. Ridnour finished with 11 assists. Sessions with 8 as the Bucks charted 37 dimes for the game.  They also scored a combined 42 points without hitting a mess of 3’s, an impressive feat for a couple of point guards.

Did you say 37 assists for the team?  I did. When’s the last time the Bucks did that? Not during the Michael Redd era that I can remember. The 1980’s? (I’m diggin for this stat but I don’t have it yet). Of course,  Sessions had 24 himself last April in a garbage time game against Chicago but the Bucks as a team totalled 33. The Bulls, who won the game, tallied 42. There is a trend there. Sharing is caring in the NBA and also leads to wins. Here’s the video of Sessions show against the Bulls, just because it’s fun to watch so much beautiful passing:

In any case, it really is too early and both players should be tested further; there’s no reason to knock Luke down to 2nd string … yet. In their first game together, they fueled a win and finished the game on the court together. However, running circles around the Wizards second-rate guards isn’t a defining feat for either player. Prior to the Wiz, both players had notched a win and a loss as the starter. Right now, the schedule is so tough that it may not matter until January (game 34) when the Bucks will probably have to get a move on to pull their season together.

In the end, I have a feeling Skiles will probably settle on the better defender as his starter and it remains to be seen whether Sessions can consistently play better D than Ridnour, who has trouble guarding many point guards (Luke wouldn’t have done much better against Jose Calderon last week than Sessions did in the loss, and could well have done worse). It’s Lucky Luke video time:

Here at the Bob Boozer Jinx, the editorial board was ahead of the curve in realizing how stoked about Sessions’ potential both the current and previous Bucks regimes were (and still are). In fact, I sussed it out well before the pre-NBA draft hypsters did that the Bucks were not looking for a point guard in the draft, due in large part to Sessions’ potential. The Bucks didn’t work out any college point guards and took a pass on D.J. Augustin and Jerryd Bayless, a couple of pretty good point guards who were still on the board when the Bucks picked Joe Alexander.

The highlight of that story in May was Bucks development coach Bill Peterson’s comparison of Sessions’ development to Steve Nash’s — Peterson was Nash’s development coach in Dallas.

In the Reno Gazette story, Peterson, the lone assistant Scott Skiles retained from last season’s staff, went so far as to compare Sessions to the young Steve Nash, a Peterson development project in Dallas 1998-2000.

 “If you only knew [about Nash’s struggles]. Guys don’t just start out in this league and they’re lights out. I can remember nights when Nash was booed unmercifully. There were nights when they would boo him every time he touched the ball. I told Sess, ‘Look where he is now. All it takes is hard work and dedication.’ And Sess has that.”

Except that Sessions doesn’t shoot anything like Nash, who’s been the best outside shooter in the league for a while now (two-point jumpers and 3’s included statistically). Neither does Ridnour, but that didn’t stop the NBA wags from suggesting that Luke was the second coming of Nash in 2004-05 when Ray Allen was leading the Supersonics into the West semifinals playoffs. For that we go to MiniShaq’s Lucky Luke Ridnour Mix on Youtube.

Lucky Luke hasn’t yet played out his shot at a second NBA life (for Luke it’s life after Ray Allen), so for now, Skiles’ decision to keep him in the starting role is sound. Might as well see if the five-year veteran can pilot the Bucks to a few wins in the tough early season schedule.

COMING UP: Boston and Phoenix this weekend.

The Bucks head to Boston Friday for a game against the champs and Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. This is a good defensive test for Ridnour and Sessions, who go against lightning quick Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. If Michael Redd is still out with his ankle injury (and he’s now confirmed he will be), Sessions may be called on to guard Ray as well. Former Buck Eddie House, the first guard off the bench in the C’s rotation, is too big for Lucky Luke, so Sessions will likely be matched up against House as well.

Yes, my guy Sam “I Am” Cassell is still a Celtic. Unfortunately, the clown prince of basketball is not on the active roster … for now.

Saturday, Steve Nash, Shaquille O’Neal and Amare Stoudemire and the Phoenix Suns come to town (7:30PM gametime) along with a couple of good 3-point shooters who’d look good in a Michael Redd trade: Leandro Barbosa and Raja Bell. They’re both among the top ten career 3-point shooters in the league.

Can the Bucks at full strength surprise the Suns? This year is probably the last run by Nash/Shaq at the Western Conference finals and they opened the season beating the Spurs. Nash will be a great test for Ridnour and Sessions, but I’m even more interested in seeing how Bogut handles Shaq. When I did my center rankings back in July, I couldn’t justify ranking Bogut and many of the other centers on the list ahead of Shaq. I realize he’s lost a couple of steps, but he’s still Shaq, and guys like Marcus Camby, Mehmet Okur and, yes, Bogut, haven’t achieved anything or played to such heights that they should be considered “better than Shaq.” 

I plan on reassessing the centers’ rankings around the All-Star break, with an eye toward Bogut improving and (hopefully) moving up the list. Outplaying Shaq will be a great way to get his season going in the right direction. 

A shout out to The Rogue Hour, a funky blog, about sports, race and all sorts of American things (a strong and thoughtful commentary about Obama’s election win is the feature up now). And sometimes, The Rogue gives a nice plug to the Bob Boozer Jinx. Belated thanks, Rogue!

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