James Posey: Out of Rotation, Not Out of Mind

Under Interim Head Coach Frank Vogel, the Indiana Pacers have played their way to a 6-1 record, and as many players have noted, part of the reason for the recent success has been the changes that Vogel has made since assuming control of the team.  From putting cementing the  playing lineup, to reintroducing shooting guard Dahntay Jones to the rotation, Vogel has undoubtedly put his mark on the team.   One less discussed change he has made, however, has been his decision to bench newly-acquired small forward James Posey. 

Under the reign of Vogel’s predecessor, Jim O’Brien, Posey averaged around eighteen minutes per game, appearing in 41 games off of the bench.   Contrastingly, in the seven games that Vogel has coached, the twelve-year veteran has been in a game just once, and that too for a mere four minutes.   A major reason for this, notes Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star, is that Vogel has a lesser preference than O’Brien to play small forwards at the power forward position (a strategy known as “small ball” in informal basketball vernacular).  When the unfortunate logjam at Posey’s natural small forward position is taken into account, it comes as no surprise, then, that Posey has seen his minutes dwindle to null (as many predicted at the beginning of the season).

While the reduction in playing time for Posey will surely aide the development of younger players such as George and Brandon Rush, the Pacers also lose key skills that Posey brings to the table.  Consider, for instance, his proclivity towards drawing charges, a beneficial aspect of an effective defense.  Posey understands that the threat of a drawn charge is an effective deterrent to opponents looking to score in the paint.  As he puts it, “Guys will come in the lane and start thinking twice and they’ll settle for a pull-up jump shot instead of driving all the way”, the totality of which results in opponents taking lower percentage shots farther from the basket.  And of course, even when the preventative element of drawing charges fails, the tactic is also a useful solution to players who do try to score within the painted area:   The charge results in a foul for the opposing player, in addition to an unwanted turnover, thus allowing the defending team to receive possession of the basketball.

The loss of Posey’s shooting ability must also not be discounted.  Although he is shooting quite poorly this season at just thirty-five percent, he has historically been a very effective shooter, especially from three-point range.  It is possible that, given minutes, his shots will start to fall, as he appears to be due for a “hot” streak.  In fact, during his 2006 Championship season with the Miami Heat, Posey connected on over forty percent of his three-point field goal attempts, a very admirable number.  In light of this, it does not appear to be a stretch to make the claim that his shooting touch will soon return, which would undoubtedly benefit the Pacers if he were given the privilege of playing time.

It is important to note that, unlike situations of the type that occur from time to time in professional sports, Posey’s demotion does not portend a personal conflict instigated by Vogel.  Rather, his reduction in playing time is strictly a basketball decision, and does not imply a permanent seat on the bench.  Indeed, Vogel has not been reluctant in the least to utilize Posey’s services as needed.  For example, he was inserted into the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on February 4th, thus allowing the Pacers to spread the floor.  Quick in his praise for the forward, Vogel noted that, “Posey us some good minutes in the first half when we needed him, when we needed to go small because they were a zone and we needed to attack the zone”.  A few days later, Vogel further voiced his appreciation for Posey (albeit in a roundabout manner), remarking, “I believe in every guy on this roster”.  Likewise, Posey has also indicated his thankfulness for good coaches, proudly saying, “I’ve been coached by Pat Riley, Doc Rivers, Hubie Brown.  Just thinking about some of the guys I’ve played with and the coaches I’ve had, I can’t ask for anything more.”  It appears unlikely, therefore, that Posey’s benching is a result of dissent between him Vogel.  Rather, it is an unfortunate decision warranted by an abundance of wing players.  With these considerations, it is evident that Posey is still perceived as an impactful player in the eyes of Vogel, and if need be, Posey will be back on the floor again, displaying his trademark brand of active defense and sharp shooting.

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