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Beloved Reserve Shines In Losing Effort

A Daily Babble Production

The end of last night's Hornets-Lakers affair featured enough wackiness to provide enough  content for a weekend's worth of the Babble (but fortunately for you, we're not that interested in reliving a purple and gold victory to that extent).  Chris Paul was at his best in the fourth quarter prior to a late charge and defensive lapse that cost the Hornets a chance to put the game away with ease in regulation.  Kobe Bryant got the benefit of a questionable call to foul Paul out in overtime.  David West and Pau Gasol made parallel plays of intense stupidity in the final minute of overtime.  Rasual Butler couldn't seem to miss.  But when it was all over, I got up from my couch with the same thought that struck me so often a season ago: It really is a pleasure to watch James Posey play basketball.

Before we get ahead of ourselves into the dangerous territory of deifying a very good sixth man, it's worth noting that Posey was by no means perfect last night in the Hornets' 115-111 loss.  He threw a ball out of bounds with two seconds remaining on the shot clock on the Hornets winning by three in the final minute of the fourth quarter.  He also didn't convert on either of his three-point attempts in overtime.  The second was an attempt at a tie with 11 seconds left, and his miss all but ended the Hornets' realistic chances.

But the rest of the reserve forward's evening - particularly the fourth quarter - served as a testament to the wide array of tools Posey brings to the table.

The Hornets went to the fourth quarter trailing by 13 points and came up with a dominant effort in the final period of regulation to force overtime.  Along with Paul and Butler, Posey was right at the center of it.

He took three shots in the quarter.  Nine points.  Each came with that hallmarked relaxed Pose stroke; semi-falling-away, kicking one leg out, full extension of both arms and legs.  It's that motion that looks as though he's shooting in his driveway or a deserted gymnasium.  Like every other part of his game, it gives off the aura that there he feels no pressure at all.  All the third trey did was break a tie with 75 seconds remaining in regulation.  Ice cool.

As always with Posey, the scoring came almost as a bonus to the fine job he did at the other end.  Kobe Bryant finished with 39 points, but he got them on 13-of-30 shooting from the field, largely a product of Posey harassing him all night (Pose also did not send Kobe to the line for a single one of his 12 free throw attempts for the game).  Bryant is one of the two best players on the planet, and he got his share of buckets against Posey, but he had to work for each of them.  Whether it was a turnaround jumper in the lane or a driving finish at the rim, James contested until the very end.

He got his share of stops, too.  In addition to all the missed field goals he forced, the Xavier product came up with a huge play with the game tied and less than four minutes remaining in the fourth.  He bodied up Bryant as soon as the star caught the ball out on the left wing.  With the shot clock running down, Kobe had nowhere to move and wound up attempting to use multiple pivot feet to get himself free.  That isn't allowed.  Traveling, Hornets ball.  Two possessions later, Posey preserved a two-point lead for the Hornets by planting himself in front of Derek Fisher to take a charge on the fast break.

James Posey outscored Kobe Bryant 9-2 in the fourth quarter.  He came up with six of his 10 rebounds in that quarter and overtime, several of which came in traffic.  While he was at it, he drew a charge, forced a travel and saved a ball out of bounds, all in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter alone.  Through it all, he never missed an opportunity to exchange some chatter with his opponents, and he made sure that if he committed a foul, he got his money's worth for it (just ask a rather perturbed Lamar Odom).

The 17 points and 10 rebounds are nice numbers.  So is the plus-minus figure that indicates that the Hornets outscored the Lakers by 16 during Pose's 33 minutes of action.  But what made James Posey such fun to watch last night was what always does: Just as Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson said on ESPN, "He comes to compete."  No matter what uniform he wears, I'll always appreciate that.

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