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From Russia with Love

Jannero Pargo has been the subject of many, many words over the last year. It's ironic that I wrote a post entitled "Last Jannero Pargo Post" some time last August. Since that time, Mike James fell off the Face of the Earth, Pargo had some weird payment issues in Russia, transferred to a European powerhouse, Antonio Daniels was routinely blander than vanilla scented with vanilla with a hint of vanilla, the Hornets sucked, and oh hey, is that Pargo back in New Orleans?

Thus, we've come full circle, and Pargo is fully back in the spotlight.

I know Daniels caught a lot of flak as the year came to a close. The primary criticism was that he lacked the "game breaker" skills that Pargo brought, the ability to, for lack of a better term, do something. And I don't necessarily disagree with that line of thought. Daniels' primary skill as an NBA player is game management. He normally takes very good care of the ball (though he was horrific with the Hornets), he'll pick up a rebound here or there, maybe toss in a jumper, and drop a couple nice passes. Nothing flashy, nothing overly risky, just solid basketball. More importantly, underrated basketball.

The opposite viewpoint is that when Pargo is on the floor, defenses are forced to play harder. Even though he might not go off, there's the threat that he could go off, and that's something worth having. My gripe with this concept is that if it is actually true, it should show up somewhere. Anywhere. His own numbers were awful. His plus/minus numbers didn't help him out much.

I'm not going to go so far as to say he would provide nothing. The second unit was unbelievably stagnant this year. Insert Pargo in there, and things free up, no doubt. Maybe Julian Wright plays better, maybe Mo Pete gets more minutes to complement Pargo on the wings, maybe Devin Brown doesn't get as long a leash. The point is something would probably happen... but statistics and observation both indicate that his crazy inconsistency would at best equal Daniels' steady if boring play. And Daniels is already scheduled to make 6.6 million, more than the midlevel, and vastly overpriced.

On top of that, the Hornets have gaping holes in the backup front court (ideally upgrades at PF and C), potentially an even bigger hole in the starting front court (if Chandler is moved), and a need for a creative wing. Backup point guard is not a top priority, and considering the dollars the Hornets have committed there already and the general competence thusly derived, there is decidedly no "need" for Jannero Pargo.

And yet, you get the feeling that Pargo will make his comeback regardless. He's made no secret of his desire to return- "I pretty much want the same role I had before I left here." Byron Scott and Chris Paul both want him back. The biggest key would seem to be media and fan perception. The Hornets took a tumble from their lofty levels of a year ago. As the season progressed, the reasons were absolutely clear. Tyson Chandler was a shell of himself. Literally everyone on the team was injured at some point. Sean Marks and Hilton Armstrong turned into the team's top front court options, through no doings of their own. But now, as fans and analysts have taken a step back from the season, those explanations will start to fade into obscurity. The once clear cut explanations (injuries, regression, lack of depth) will evolve into far vaguer terms. The team simply lost its spark, its attitude. How do they get that winning fire back? By signing somebody who was last seen when the team still had that grit and fortitude.

Financially, I believe the Hornets can have him as long as George Shinn wants him. Since he completed two years of duty in New Orleans and has not been signed by an NBA team since his departure, the Hornets still own his rights. Therefore, they can be over the cap and still get a deal done with him (unlike with other free agents). Of course, the further over the cap they are, the steeper the luxury tax. At this point, that's the only snag I can envision in the negotiating process- every dollar committed to Pargo will have to be matched by Shinn as part of the luxury. If the Hornets do end up selling Tyson Chandler, I can't imagine George Shinn possibly turning down Byron Scott and Chris Paul asking him to cough up a few millions for Pargo.

Last summer, I thought the Hornets made the absolute right decision by letting him walk. There was already money committed to another backup point guard. Even after this horrific season, the move seems right in retrospect. Things didn't fall apart because the Hornets refused to overpay Jannero. This summer, the Hornets are tasked with literally the same decision with the same player. Again, there's another serviceable, overpaid (and more proven) backup point guard on hand.

I don't think Bower spurns Pargo two times in a row. It's a narrow tightrope he's walking right now- on one side, he certainly knows Pargo's impact won't be worth the dollars. On the other side, there's the fans, Chris Paul, and the team to appease. Bower correctly chose the first side last season, but a series of unfortunate circumstances may just force him to swing the other way.