Posey Brings Intangibles, Two Rings
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

His loss is huge and (signals) around the league that New Orleans has just stepped up a notch. For Boston, it registers as a substantial subtraction. Mark Murphy, Lindys 2008-09 NBA preview magazine

Hes exactly what the Hornets needed. It was a great pickup. Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski

Its a terrific signing. Hes really that good. Sports Illustrated NBA writer Chris Mannix

If you didnt know better, after reading those three glowing statements from this summer, you may have thought the player Murphy, Wojnarowski and Mannix were discussing is a perennial All-Star, a household name recognized by sports fans everywhere.

The subject of their lofty praise, however, realistically has little chance of ever appearing in the NBA All-Star Game. Other than among diehard basketball fans, he remains a relatively anonymous player. Over the past two NBA seasons, hes only been in his teams starting lineup 21 times of his 145 games played. Since debuting in the league in 1999-2000, hes compiled career averages of 9.2 points and 4.9 rebounds decent numbers, sure, but not those of a guy with the ability to sway experts opinions on an NBA title race, right?

Wrong. When James Posey signed a free-agent contract with New Orleans in July leaving Boston after sparking the Celtics 2008 championship run the reaction around the league was immediate. Poseys departure was considered by many to be a significant blow to Bostons hopes of repeating as NBA champions for the first time since 1969. Meanwhile, for a Hornets team that registered a franchise-record 56 wins last season, despite one of the least-productive benches in the NBA, Poseys signing was billed as a perfect match.

We thought of James Posey as the best free agent available, and we were able to land him, so obviously were excited about that, Hornets fifth-year head coach Byron Scott said of the two-time champion. If you look at what he did in Miami (helping the Heat win their first-ever NBA title in 2006), and what he did last year in Boston, hes a winner. Thats the bottom line. He fits in extremely well with what were doing here. You dont look at the numbers this guy is a winner.

Stats dont tell the story
Numbers. Statistics. Theyre often the easiest and most convenient way to compare and rank basketball players. Media members and fans have relied on numerical data to analyze the game since the inception of the NBA, but partly due to the rising popularity of fantasy basketball, stats have evolved into an even larger part of the conversation.

One of the problems with relying heavily on statistics, though, is that there are dozens of offensive stats that have become widely accepted, yet relatively few that measure defensive ability. If you think about it, the only commonly-used stats to gauge a players defense are blocked shots and steals. Unfortunately, neither category necessarily measures how effective a player is defensively. In many instances, players who block a ton of shots or get a bunch of steals on defense do so because they frequently gamble at that end of the floor, shirking their primary responsibility of guarding their own man.

One of the NBAs most widely-recognized, on-the-ball defenders is San Antonios Bruce Bowen. Well, Bowen averaged 0.7 steals and a meager 0.3 blocks per game in 2007-08. Does that mean he wasnt an effective defensive player? Of course not. In fact, the 12-year veteran was voted to the NBAs All-Defensive First Team, for the fifth consecutive year.

When people say you cant measure Poseys worth by his stats, they are at least partly referring to his stifling man-to-man defensive ability (by the way, Poseys career averages are 1.2 steals and 0.3 blocks). The Xavier (Ohio) product often drew the critical assignment during the 2008 postseason of guarding superstars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. James was held to just 35.5 percent shooting from the field against Posey and the Celtics; Bryant only made 40.5 percent of his shots in a six-game NBA Finals defeat.

Hes going to help us so much at that end of the floor, to have a tough-minded, physical guy like him, Scott said of the 31-year-olds defensive skills. He can defend against some of these (shooting guards) and (small forwards) in the Western Conference that have given us trouble.

You have to get stops, you have to accept that challenge, and you have to have that pride, Posey said of the importance of defense. You have to not only defend your man, but understand the system and be in position when needed, so your teammates can count on you.

Hornets general manager Jeff Bower, who has emphasized bringing in players who think team-first in their approach to the game, believes Posey is another piece that fits the philosophy that has helped transform New Orleans into one of the leagues up-and-coming squads.

This is a player who is all about his teammates and playing whatever role hes asked to contribute, Bower said. When we talked about the types of players we need to continue to improve, James Posey was at the top of the list. Not only for what he does on the court, but also for the mentality that he approaches the game with, and the attitude that he displays both on the court and in the locker room. We feel weve added a player who has demonstrated championship-caliber (qualities).

Many times with players, stats are used as a measuring stick. A lot of times it can paint an accurate picture or give you some indication of a players worth. Well in James case, the stats dont tell half the story.

Big Game James
While serving as a role player for the Rockets, Lakers and Spurs over his 15-year NBA career, Robert Horry earned the nickname Big Shot Rob, a moniker based on his ability to sink countless fourth-quarter shots with the outcome of playoff games at stake. Horry has won a total of seven NBA titles and is responsible for several of the most memorable baskets in basketball history.

Although he has a ways to go before he approaches Horrys accumulation of championship rings, Posey has now won NBA two titles in a three-year span. As a result, he has been called Big Game James by some media members, due to his timely playoff performances. Hes also begun drawing comparisons to Horry in the process.

Thats an honor, Posey said of being likened to Horry. Because he was a big part of those teams being able to win championships. This game is about winning, and thats the only thing I try to do. Im going to do whatever it takes to help win games.

During Miamis 2006 NBA Finals series comeback vs. Dallas, Posey drilled a handful of clutch perimeter shots to help the Heat erase a two-games-to-none deficit against the heavily-favored Mavericks. In 2008, several of Poseys best postseason games again took place during the NBA Finals, as he helped spearhead Boston to a 4-2 series triumph over the Lakers. He shot 50 percent from three-point range (12-for-24) in the Finals and was perfect from the foul line.

He makes big shots, Scott assessed. And from some of the early things Ive seen of him (in training camp practices), hes a much better post-up player than I ever realized. Thats something well try to explore a little more.

Although Posey hasnt averaged double digits in points in any of the past four seasons, his decrease in production has been largely due to his willing acceptance of a smaller role on the offensive end. Before joining Miami, he averaged a career-high 13.7 points in Memphis in 2003-04, for a Grizzlies club that won a franchise-record 50 games.

Playing with offensive standouts such as Chris Paul, David West and Peja Stojakovic, its likely that New Orleans wont need Posey to average double figures, allowing him to focus on his trademark defensive and hustle plays. Thats just fine with Posey, who says hes not preoccupied with how many shots he takes or what his role will be with his new team.

Ive been in the league too long to be (focused) on that, Posey said of whether he starts or is a reserve for New Orleans. Coach will decide how many minutes I play. I have no problem coming off the bench. I always accept my role, no matter what it is.

Hes a great guy on and off the floor, described Scott, who knew Poseys attitude would fit in perfectly with the Hornets other unselfish players. He plays with a passion that we like. At the defensive end, hes one of the best. It obviously puts us a step closer to our ultimate goal of winning a championship. Hes done it with two different organizations and hopefully we can get the trifecta.

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