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He's still a good fit

Posey will receive his title ring tonight

James Posey (41) is trying to get his new teammates in New Orleans to play like his old ones. James Posey (41) is trying to get his new teammates in New Orleans to play like his old ones. (Bill Haber/Associated Press)
By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / December 12, 2008
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The ear-piercing pyrotechnics were spectacular. A symbolic pit called "The Ring of Faith," including cards reading "15 Strong," sat on the hardwood floor at AmericanAirlines Arena. Highlights of the 2005-06 season were shown on mammoth video screens. And at the conclusion of the ceremony, the Miami Heat's 2006 NBA championship banner was raised to the rafters to the accompaniment of Gary Glitter's "Rock 'n' Roll Part 2 (Hey)."

James Posey will never forget the glamorous celebration of his first NBA title with the Heat alongside the likes of Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade. Tonight at TD Banknorth Garden, however, the New Orleans Hornets swingman will be the focus of a less sensational solo ring ceremony in recognition of his 2008 NBA title, achieved with the Celtics. Then he'll take the court with New Orleans against his old team. Posey didn't attend the Celtics' ring ceremony Oct. 28 because he was with the Hornets in the Bay Area in preparation for their season opener the next night.

"It's going to feel odd," said Posey in a phone interview Monday. "I'll be out there by myself. I wish I could've had the experience with those guys because it was a lot of those guys' first time and also from just the bond that we had from doing something real special."

Posey came to the Celtics in the summer of 2007 from the Heat after signing a one-year deal with a player's option for another season. The 6-foot-8-inch, 217-pounder will be remembered by Celtics fans for his leadership, defense, and scoring off the bench during the franchise's first championship in 22 years. Not long after the Celtics became champs, Posey, who averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds, became a coveted free agent as he opted out of his contract.

"[Posey] was the captain of the bench on and off the floor," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I just thought he was just so important to us in the locker room and on the floor. He had the ability to make shots. Basketball-wise, he was just so versatile for us."

Said Celtics president Danny Ainge, "[Posey] played a big role for us, a big role in the locker room and on the court. He hit big shots. He was very important. He will always be remembered as a key component to last year's championship."

No encore

Posey and the Celtics had mutual strong interest in getting him re-signed. But Boston offered a three-year deal paying the midlevel exception that would have started at $5.5 million this season. In need of a leader and scoring punch off the bench, the Hornets bettered that offer, dangling a four-year, $24 million deal that Posey agreed to on the mid-July day the Celtics were honored in Los Angeles at the ESPY Awards as Best Team.

"It was just the nature of the business," Posey said. "That's what it came down to. I loved the opportunity to come there and play and put that uniform on and be a part of that tradition. The fans were great."

On Posey's contract situation, Ainge said, "I don't want to get into it. [Tonight] should be a good day for Posey. He's going to be a big help for New Orleans."

One big question mark for the Celtics entering the season was how to replace Posey. Boston has done it with two guards named Allen, starter Ray and reserve Tony, who have picked up the offensive slack after being hampered by injuries last season. Posey says he isn't surprised the Celtics figured out a way to fill his shoes.

"Even when I was there, they had confidence in the guys to come and [play] their role the best they could," Posey said. "That's what you have to do. There are opportunities for other guys to come and play and do what they do to their best for the team. A lot of those guys understand that. There is no reason why they shouldn't be able to compete."

Posey also said he wasn't surprised about the Celtics' fast start.

"I was able to catch the game the other day and I was looking at the way they played defense; it was a beautiful thing to see," he said. "It was like when I was there. I was like, 'Wow, they look real nice out there.' They have [nearly everyone] back, so they know what to expect from each other. They know how to play."

Another title town?

Posey joined a Hornets team with championship aspirations after making it to the Western Conference semifinals last season while being led by two young All-Stars, Chris Paul and David West. The Hornets own a Southwest Division-best 12-6 record, which Posey described as "OK, but it could be better." The Cleveland native is averaging 8.8 points and 4.3 rebounds off the bench while shooting 45 percent from 3-point range and is expected to assume an even stronger offensive role as the Hornets get more familiar with him.

"I've just accepted my role; that's all I've ever done," Posey said. "I'm still learning offensively. Offensively, it's a different situation in this system. Coach [Byron Scott] has confidence in me to go out there and just play. I'm not going to go do things I can't do. I'm comfortable with how I play the game and the different opportunities I can take advantage of when I can."

Posey is assuming an even stronger leadership role with a much less experienced New Orleans team than he did in Boston. He also has been trying to motivate his teammates by telling them stories about the impressive work ethic of the Celtics' star trio, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce.

"We got great leaders in Boston, starting with Doc, and then the Big Three," Posey said. "They led by example, practicing hard and playing hard. They are making millions of dollars and they're diving on the floor for loose balls. KG, Paul, and Ray, that's the effort they gave and taking advantage of the opportunity to win a title.

"For me coming here, that's the message I'm trying to pass on to the guys so they can do things they've never done before to get an opportunity to win it all. That's what separates you from a lot of players in the league. You can't do it for one or two games, you have to do it on a nightly basis. That's what was special about those three - they left it out [on the floor]."

Special ring to it

Posey couldn't remember his ring size when the Celtics inquired in October, so he went to a store in Indianapolis during the preseason to get the answer. As he did in Miami, he plans to get replica championship rings for family and close friends.

"I haven't put the order in yet from the catalog," Posey said. "But I'm still going to get stuff for my family and also my homeboys this time because they didn't get one the first time around, and also for my high school coach.

"I saw the [Celtics'] rings [on TV] from the night of the ceremony. I caught the ceremony on a halftime show when they were going over it. I just lived the moment again [on the replay] with that group of guys of being a Celtic, the tradition and putting another banner up. That was amazing."

Posey's former Celtics teammates are looking forward to seeing him get honored tonight and hope the fans show him appreciation, too.

"It's going to be good to see him," Pierce said. "He was a big part of what we did last year. We'll give him his ring and I hope the fans will acknowledge him even though he is on the other team because of what he did for us."

Said Garnett, "It should be good to see the champ."

While Posey spent just one season in Boston, it resulted in the first Celtics championship in more than two decades, which will forever make his contributions memorable in the franchise's storied history. When asked what his fondest memories of last season were, he said, "Just the whole season, how we came into the season. Everyone came in early. Our trip overseas [to Rome for training camp] set the tone. We had a competitive nature and expected to win every game. There was no doubt about it. When we lost, we were actually shocked, but we gave teams credit when they actually beat us.

"But just from Day 1, it was about going through the process and that swagger. When you see them play, you see it. They're going out expecting to win and know how to win."

Marc J. Spears can be reached at mspears@globe.com.

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