The Sacramento Kings have two veteran point guards at the helm this season that have served as backups for most of their respective careers, but Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions together could end up being a recipe for consistent production at the one spot this season, regardless of who starts.
Collison and Sessions have 12 years of combined NBA experience and both play with the up-tempo style of offense the Kings front office wants. Collison, who is the likely starter, can push the ball up the floor and has the ability to organize the offense. Sessions attacks the basket and can rack up points at the free throw line (he hit 8-9 at the free throw stripe in the Kings' first preseason game on Sunday).
We're only two preseason games into the season, so we shouldn't get too ahead of ourselves here, but the two new acquisitions have looked efficient sharing the point guard duties.
On Sunday, Collison started and played 27 minutes, while Sessions notched 29 minutes. They combined for 27 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds. On Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors, Collison and Sessions each played 25 minutes (Sessions started) and they combined for 16 points, 11 assists and 4 rebounds. They each have had a game with four turnovers, but that should be expected at the start of the preseason when new players are still learning each other's games.
Head coach Michael Malone won't say that this equal split of minutes is how he plans to assemble the point guard position in the regular season (probably because he is simply using this time to evaluate what he has), but he is enjoying the flexibility his two new guards are giving him.
"I can play either one of those guys separately. They can back each other up and they can play together at times, but they're both having very good training camps," Malone said.
Collison, who the Kings signed to a three-year deal worth $16 million over the summer, said the combination is working because he and his backcourt partner are unselfish with the basketball, both looking to set teammates up and keep the defense on its heels.
"We're good, veteran players. We understand the game and we're just doing anything we can to help our team win. It's not about ourselves. We're unselfish players and we'll do whatever it takes to win the game," said Collison, who finished Tuesday's game with 10 points and five assists.
Malone has used Collison and Sessions on the floor at the same time as well. Having two ball-handlers in the backcourt, when the defense and flow of the game allows it, will probably be something we see out of the Kings frequently this season. On a couple of possessions with both of them on the floor Tuesday night, the ball was moving with the type of fluidity that we haven't seen in Sacramento for quite some time.
"The game is fast-paced [when playing with Sessions]," Collison said. "We get a lot easier buckets … He can get the ball on the outlet and he can kick it up to me and vice versa, there's a lot of quick decisions going on."
Collison and Sessions, who have played against each other quite a bit as reserves on opposing teams in the past, aren't shy about their appreciation for each other's games. Here is Sessions breaking down why it is beneficial when both him and Collison are the on the floor at the same time.
"Push the ball and try to get the ball moving from left to right because it's tough to guard guys when you have guys like DC [Collison] that can break down the defense. It's always hard to guard guys like that on the floor. So we try to attack and push the ball," Sessions said.
Sessions, who the Kings have locked in to a two-year deal, said it's been a fun start to the season for him because the whole team is practicing hard and competing. And while he may have started for Malone on Tuesday, he isn't concerned about whether it is him or Collison announced with the starters on opening night.
"We both know what we bring to the team … if he's starting, if I'm starting, if I'm backing him up, if he's backing me up; it doesn't matter - we're going to need both of us," said Sessions, who scored six points to go along with six assists and three rebounds in Tuesday's win.
One guy who is going to need solid production from both of these guards is DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins likes what he has seen out of the one-two punch of Collison and Sessions so far.
"I think it's working out pretty well … with DC running the show and Ramon coming off the bench being a spark plug. I think it's working out well," Cousins said. "Still trying to learn one another, we're still trying to learn the team. We're still trying to learn each other's tendencies, but still building that chemistry; but I think they're doing a great job."
Sessions said the big man makes him look good.
"He's one of those guys that when he's down there on the block you've got to give him the ball because he takes up so much space. It's going well, he catches all of my passes and makes my passes look a lot better than what they are," Sessions said.
In Tuesday's game, both Sessions and Collison fed some nice interior passes to Cousins that resulted in what Collison refers to with a smile as an "easy bucket."
Through two games, second-year point guard Ray McCallum has only logged four minutes of playing time. Without an injury to Collison or Sessions, it may be difficult for the MVP of the Summer League championship game to get minutes this season if the shared point guard duties of the two veterans continues to work well.
The Kings have five preseason games left to fine tune their point guard attack.