Bringing Back the Bobcats
Leading scorers Sessions and Walker learn from and build on their own experiences.
by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista
Last March, Bobcats rookie Kemba Walker was embroiled in a season that would eventually set the NBA’s mark for all-time lowest win percentage. That same month, Cavaliers guard and League journeyman Ramon Sessions was supposedly receiving a career-altering opportunity by being traded to the Lakers.
Sessions averaged over 12 points and 6 assists in 23 games for the Lakers, but the team bowed out in the second round, and acquired Steve Nash in the offseason. On his time in Los Angeles, Sessions says, “It was tough, just being that lockout year, coming in at the All-Star break, not many practices. I may have practiced two times with the whole team. So it’s one of those things that, it was a learning experience, and I felt like if I got a full year under my belt, it would have been a little different. But, it worked out for the best, I’m here now, and just looking forward to helping this team.”
While Championships are the end-all for many players, and even the opportunity to legitimately play for one is rare, sometimes the beauty of a career is in the sum of its parts. Or for Sessions, perhaps the beauty is in longevity: getting to a place he wasn’t expected to reach and experiencing success that defies draft selection.
“Just being from the 56th pick, a lot of people didn’t expect [success]. I don’t know how many 56-picks are still around, but [I’m] one of those guys [many people] didn’t really expect much from. Just a lot of hard work, and I’ve been fortunate,” he says.
“It’s been amazing, it’s been great just to keep that name on the back of a jersey,” says Sessions, “This is my, I think my fifth team, six years. Six coaches, six years. It’s definitely a book that I could write one day. It’s a journey that’s been great though. It’s been a lot of tough, hard roads, but a lot of hard work has paid off and I’m six years in and just truly blessed to still be here.”
It took the Bobcats 12 games this season to match their win total in 66 games last year. Sessions looks comfortable in the offense, and comfortable with his identity on a team that was previously searching for one. On his role, he says, “Just being productive when I’m out there. Try to just play my game, run the team and be free to do whatever I see out there. You know, [coach Dunlap] really believes and trusts in me, which I really appreciate from the coaching staff and the players respect me well. It’s just one of those things, I just try to go out there and play my game. Whatever comes that night, if it’s scoring, getting assists, rebounding or just running the team. Just try to play my game, whatever it presents.”
Asked if the many situations he’s experienced contribute to a mentorship role within the young roster, he says, “Definitely, being six years in on a very young team—I’m kind of an older guy in the League now. It’s one of those things, I just try to use my experience, the experience that I have, to help those guys get through the good and the bad. It’s been going well the first part of the season so far, we just got to keep it up.”
One of those young players is Kemba Walker, who transitioned from NCAA Champion in his senior season at UConn to member of the Bobcats, which recorded an NBA all-time low .106 win percentage in his rookie season.
“We don’t really have a goal as far as numbers, and wins and losses, things like that,” says Walker, regarding the team’s mindset. “We just want to get better every game. We want to compete, we want to have a chance to win basketball games every night. That’s really our main goal.”
Walker has started every game for the team this season, improving in scoring, field-goal percentage and assists. On his offseason, he says, “I just wanted to get back to the basics. A lot of shots, a lot of film, and just seeing what I can do better, know how I can score better, more efficiently, and know how I can find my teammates.”
While the ninth overall pick in the 2011 Draft came in with different expectations than current teammate Sessions, both dealt with early adversity that shaped their appreciation for the League and its opportunities, as fleeting or frustrating as they may be.
On the ‘11-12 season, Walker says, “It was a tough year. But that’s the kind of things you have to go through in order to become better as a player and a team. I can’t complain. I wouldn’t change anything at all.”