The Wednesday after baseball’s All-Star Game is the quietest day in American sports, really the only one that doesn’t have a substantive event from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, the PGA Tour, or NASCAR.
So little things, like James Posey signing with the New Orleans Hornets, make big news. (And, as a newly minted Hornets fan, I’m paying more attention to this than most.)
Hollinger’s been doing great work for a while with making statistical analysis as important to and informative about basketball as it’s become to baseball; it’s good for fans and GMs alike.
But there’s something about the feel of adding a player like Posey that numbers will never quite replicate, as Joe Morgan and Murray Chass will no doubt tell you. (I’ll get to that.)
New Orleans might well have continued their rise to perennial dark horse championship contender by keeping their late first-round draft pick (Portland took Darrell Arthur with the 27th selection) or spending it on a slashing, mid-range gunner like Chris Douglas-Roberts or Mario Chalmers.
Adding a guy who’s acquired two rings in the last three years, though, shows a commitment to winning now and a faith in the plan that GM Jeff Bower has developed around Chris Paul, the manna from heaven that fell into the Hornets’ lap.
New Orleans, with Paul at the point, Peja Stojakovic at the 3, and David West and Tyson Chandler down low, has one of the better nuclei in the NBA. However, their bench, which trotted out youth in the form of Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrong and foolhardiness in the body of Jannero Pargo, their long-range game, which is basically Stojakovic and the streaky Morris Peterson and Pargo, and their defense, which allowed Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to aerate them at times this postseason, all needed upgrading.
Bringing in Posey as the go-to sixth man makes all three of those things better now.
He’s got the experience and energy to make a difference off the bench, as demonstrated in these playoffs, the three-point range to stretch the defense when Stojakovic is off the floor and keep the defense from keying on the Hornets’ potent Paul-and-West/Chandler pick-and-roll game, and he’s got the length and savvy, at 6’8″ and 31, to bother 2s and 3s alike.
Certainly, Hollinger’s contention that Posey’s an older Julian Wright is a valid one; Wright was the best player from the shallow bench in the 2007-08 season, and it’s unlikely adding a better player in his mold gets him more time.
Posey, though, brings shooting skills that Wright doesn’t have yet (even if, as Hollinger notes, he’s almost exclusively parked beyond the arc) and he could be a mentor for the player we could be describing as a more athletic Bruce Bowen in a few years’ time.
And the point Hollinger brings up about Posey’s age and production can’t be taken lightly, either; the Posey of this postseason probably doesn’t help New Orleans win 65 games in this regular season or any one for the lenght of his contract.
But he’s not being paid handsomely with hopes of home-court advantage: His payday is a signal that New Orleans hopes to be serious title threat not in 2010-11, but in 2009.
Sure, it’s probably a little too much, at $25 million over four years, but there are really very few bargains in the NBA in any case, and only in extraordinary circumstances (Boston this year, the Lakers in 2003-04) can even championship contenders add significant role players for a song.
Yet I’ll bet even noted skinflint George Shinn won’t regret a dime, though, if Posey is instrumental in getting the Hornets through the gauntlet that is the Western Conference and over whichever Celtics, Pistons, or Cavaliers team is waiting in the Finals in the next couple of years.
And that has something to do with the exquisite timeliness of this maneuver, too. The iron is hot in New Orleans right now, with the post-Katrina exodus returning to the city in larger numbers and genuine enthusiasm for this team making Shinn’s dreams of staying in Oklahoma City hard to recall.
Slipping from second to seventh in the West in the upcoming season would destroy a lot of that excitement, and because excitement moves needles and bolsters bottom lines in the form of TV revenue and season-ticket sales, Shinn would have been fool to make it seem like the Hornets were simply overachieving (which, frankly, they were, to some extent) this past season and still years off their track.
Adding a veteran with a championship pedigree gives New Orleans at least the semblance of actual effort to win a title in the near future.
And there’s something to be said for the potential for one fantastic postseason in the current system of NBA parity. The Pistons, one of the best three franchises of the decade (I’ll count the Spurs and Lakers in there, too), have as many titles as the Miami Heat, who, in hindsight, seem to have won theirs with a transcendent series from an oft-injured star at the best possible time and little else.
Why try to build slowly to a dynasty rather than load all the bullets for a better single shot?
Yes, the Hornets do need frontcourt help (fellow Celtic champ and New Orleans native P.J. Brown would be a good target) and would like to add another piece at the 2 to take some of the load off of Paul’s creating ability, but this is a step in the direction of a title.
James Posey may not be the perfect move, but it’s a very good one.
At least, the Hornets can pose as champs-to-be in October.