|Lakers guard Ramon Sessions will test free agency. (Getty Images)|
He arrived in town as a potential savior. Just months later, he could be flying the coop.
The Los Angeles Lakers traded for point guard Ramon Sessions at the 2012 trade deadline, hoping to inject some athleticism into their backcourt so that they could make a deep postseason push. After some initial excitement, the Lakers fizzled out in the Western Conference semifinals and coach Mike Brown seemed to prefer Steve Blake to Sessions in key situations.
The Los Angeles Times reports on Tuesday that Sessions has decided to opt out of the final year of his contract, as expected, making him a free agent this summer. Sessions had a player option worth $4.6 million for 2012-13.
Sessions, 26, averaged 11.3 points and 5.5 assists in 64 games for the Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers last season.
The hope if you were the Lakers was that Sessions would fall in love with the franchise and the city and be willing to delay his free agency to come back on his option, which is a reasonable salary number. That was just a hope, though, as players in Sessions' situation -- coming off a solid season, healthy, and entering his prime years -- will almost always test free agency to cash in on a multi-year contract.
The Lakers now face a costly decision: they can commit to Sessions even if he doesn't exactly scream "franchise point guard" or they can try to maneuver to find a replacement within the confines of the stricted salary cap structure. L.A. is guaranteed to be way over the salary cap due to the combined $62 million owed to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum next season so the opportunity to find a real upgrade will likely only come with moving Gasol or striking gold in the NBA Draft. Otherwise, the Lakers will be limited to smaller salary cap exceptions to try to fill their point guard void.
At the same time, the market is unlikely to be overwhelming for Sessions, a pick-and-roll specialist with up and down shooting numbers from outside. He seemed to take well to the spotlight in Los Angeles and said back in April he was hoping that the Lakers could be his long-term home. Those are positive indicators; perhaps the two sides can find a middle ground that makes sense for both sides.