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Sessions Sent West, Draft Bounty Grows

Sessions, Eyenga Traded to Lakers; Walton, Kapono and First-Rounder Return
by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

The Cavaliers added two exceptional pieces in this past June’s Draft. They plan to keep that tradition going next June. And the one after that.

On Thursday afternoon, the Cavaliers dealt Ramon Sessions and Christian Eyenga to the Lakers – acquiring the Lakers first round pick in 2012 Draft (lottery-protected) as well as forwards Jason Kapono, Luke Walton and cash considerations. Additionally, the Cavaliers received the right to swap their least favorable first round pick in the 2013 Draft with the Lakers.

As Thursday’s deadline approached, the Wine and Gold found themselves in a strange position. Some fans and pundits hoped the Cavs would treat this as their second rebuilding season. But Byron Scott’s squad had other ideas and has been fighting for a playoff spot all year.

But Sessions’ contract status made it difficult for the Cavaliers to keep him in their plans beyond this season. Instead, Chris Grant made the move to ensure the flow of young talent through the Draft well into the future.

The Cavaliers now have two first round picks this June (their own and the Lakers) as well as two second-rounders (theirs and New Orleans).

In the years following, they have an inventory of Draft choices – including two first-rounders from Miami and a conditional one from Sacramento. They also have the rights to Orlando’s second round selections in 2013 and ’14.

“If we feel like we have too many picks, maybe we’ll put a package together to try to move up, move them to a future year, trade them for other players, attach them with players and try to move up,” offered GM Chris Grant, who spoke on Thursday. “They’re more chips in the game. And, for us, the more assets that we have that we move around the board, so to speak, and play with, the better.”

The veterans Cleveland receives in the deal were drafted one spot apart in 2003. Jason Kapono was drafted by the Cavaliers 30 spots after LeBron James. And Luke Walton was tabbed by the LakeShow one selection after that.

The 31-year-old Kapono was averaging 2.0 points per contest in 27 games for his hometown Lakers this season. Walton, also 31, is averaging 1.3 points for L.A. this season. The son of NBA legend Bill Walton, Luke has played 439 games in Tinseltown – winning back-to-back titles with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.

In terms of the veterans Cleveland is losing, Chris Grant spoke very positively about the first major player he acquired after taking over the Cavaliers general manager position in the summer of 2009.

“For Ramon’s sake, I hope he plays well and makes the most of his opportunities,” explained Grant. “For us, it was certainty – it was pick certainty – so we felt like it was the right thing to move forward with.”

Sessions was acquired from Minnesota as part of the Delonte West trade that also brought starting center Ryan Hollins. He played 122 games with the Wine and Gold over the past two seasons and was having one of his best year’s in 2011-12 – averaging 10.5 points and 5.1 assists per game while serving as backup and mentor to rookie Kyrie Irving. Sessions has been even better sans Irving – averaging 17.8 points and 11.0 assists in four games as a starter.

It was obvious at the Bradley Center that Sessions mind was as much on Thursday’s deadline and it was on Wednesday’s affair. He had scored in double-figures in 14 of his last 17 games, but notched just two points against the team that drafted him – going 0-for-8 from the floor.

One of the team’s consummate professionals and through no fault of his own, Sessions in on the fourth team of his five-year career.

As for Christian Eyenga – he was drafted as a raw project with the 30th overall pick in 2009 and never reached the heights his off-the-charts athleticism could have yielded.

In his rookie season in 2010-11, Eyenga played in 44 games and averaged 6.9 points per contest. He scored 16 points in just his second NBA game and notched double-figures in a dozen games. This season’s been a different story for the multilingual high-flyer. In 2011-12, Eyenga bounced between Cleveland and Canton – playing in just six games and netting nine total points.

The Cavaliers continue with their master plan – building the team through the draft and strategic trades and developing the squad’s young core under the leadership of Coach Byron Scott.

“Our path right now is pretty clear for us, which is nice because it allows us to be very decisive,” concluded Grant. “We’re lucky to have an ownership group that’s very supportive – you look at the Baron Davis deal last year – and we’re lucky that we’re able to do those things. We were very aggressive and we’ll continue to be very aggressive.

“We finished the deadline, now the next opportunity to improve the team is through the Draft.”


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