You just can’t quite put your finger on him. He’s old and washed up. No he’s averaging 17 points per game in the NBA Finals.
Yet he barely averaged six points per game in the playoffs before this round.
The former college player of the year, Shane Battier, has seen it all this year: the praise, the criticism, and the silence. Nothing seems new to him. Well except the fact that he’s in the NBA Finals for the first time in his career, and ensuring his first trip is not a regrettable one.
Thru the first two games of the NBA Finals, Battier has been a star in a locker room full of them.
The defensive specialist has been lights out from three-point range, shooting 69.2 % from downtown, while quieting the previous groans that arose every time he shot the ball. Even more, he’s gotten in Kevin Durant’s head, even if it’s barely.
“I absolutely hate it,” Durant said on Battier’s hand-in-your-face defense.
The usually quiet Durant picked a less than fortunate time to show signs of weakness. Not even Kobe Bryant, in the Lakers-Rockets 2009 Western Conference Semifinal series, admitted to any sign of discomfort from Battier’s harassing defense.
But that’s what Shane Battier does. It’s his game. He harasses you, on the court that it is.
“I enjoy the competition and enjoy trying to guard Kevin Durant and Westbrook. It’s sadistic. It’s completely sadistic,” Battier said. “These guys are the best in the world and trying to play the chess game and figure them out and figure out what works and what doesn’t…that’s the thing every guy misses when they walk away from this game.”
No that’s not what every player, or most players, will miss when they walk away from the game. The competition, the ability to match his wits against the best, and the challenge of guarding them are what drive Battier.
The two-time member of NBA’s All-Defensive team doesn’t need the ball in hands, just a superstar in front of him to try and slow down.
In a Rockets-Spurs game during the 2007-08 season, Battier was assigned to guard Manu Ginobili, who was coming off the bench. A routine starter, Battier asked then Rockets coach Rick Adelman to scratch him from the starting lineup and be substituted in whenever Ginobili entered the game.
Later Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said, “No one in the NBA does that. No one says put me on the bench so I can guard their best scorer all the time.”
Other NBA players should take notes on Battier’s team first mindset because it’s no coincidence that Shane Battier and winning go hand in hand.
From his college days at Duke, he led the Blue Devils to the NCAA Championship game twice, winning it all in 2001.
He followed that by helping the Memphis Grizzlies make the playoffs for the first time in team history in 2004, and twice more again in the following two seasons.
Later Battier was traded to Houston, where he played an integral part in the Rockets’ 22 game winning streak, second longest in NBA History, during the 2007-08 season.
The season after, Batter and Houston pushed the eventually NBA Champions, the Lakers, to seven games in the 2009 playoffs.
Now he’s with Miami, and the Heat have the upper hand on the Thunder in the NBA Finals, unlike last year against the Mavericks.
Battier is the perfect role player for any NBA team.
He’ll never make Sportcenter’s Top 10 plays with a flashy offensive game. Nor will he be called to the podium either for the post-game conference. Instead Battier will be left to do the dirty work behind the scenes, and not only will he do it right, he will do it willingly.