Tom Talks

Heat’s Battier makes extra effort, stays ready

tsorensen@charlotteobserver.comApril 22, 2014 

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Shane Battier #31 of the Miami Heat reacts to a play during a game against the Denver Nuggets at American Airlines Arena on March 14, 2014 in Miami, Florida.

MIKE EHRMANN — Getty Images

— Miami’s practice ends Tuesday for everybody but Shane Battier. He does what he always does, what he has since he played at Duke. Over and over he sprints, catches the ball and shoots, trying to simulate game conditions on the emptying AmericanAirlines Arena court.

“That routine, I’ve been doing it forever,” Battier says when he finally finishes. “As long as I can remember, post-practice. It’s my church in a lot of ways. It’s my time to think, my time to get my game right. And if I get put in the game I know I put in my time.”

Battier wasn’t put in Game 1 on Sunday against the Charlotte Bobcats. He also sat out one playoff game last season. On neither occasion was he injured. In Game 7 of the 2012-13 finals he hit six 3-pointers against San Antonio.

Miami’s rotation is mysterious, and it works.

“That’s sort of the situation you’re put in,” Battier says about sitting out. “You know, you can kick the can down the street and feel bad for yourself or support teammates and stay ready. I played this long. I always prepared. So I’m not going to stop now in the final two months of my career,”

Battier is 35 and this season is his 12th.

Are you saying there won’t be a 13th?

“These are probably the final couple months or weeks of my career,” Battier says. “I enjoy the competition, I enjoy the locker room. I don’t enjoy the grind as much as I used to. Part of that is having kids (ages 6 and 3) and having a family.”

Battier averages four points and 2.8 blocks this season, and 8.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists for his career.

The numbers aren’t spectacular. Battier isn’t spectacular. But you want him on your team.

If Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked to explain what he does for a living, he could point to Battier and say, “Right there.”

Duke assistant coach Nate James was a Blue Devils sophomore when Battier was a freshman.

“I was a tough kid raised from a tough family, born in Detroit, father was a Marine,” James says by telephone during a break in a recruiting trip. “So I always looked at guys to see if they were tough enough. I do that as a coach now. Can they endure the challenges?

“And you look at Shane and here’s this goofy kid from suburbia, Mich., Detroit Country Day. And he’s the toughest, the most competitive guy that I know.”

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra attended a Duke practice in 2011.

“Coach Spoelstra talked about adding Shane to what they already have, obviously, with LeBron (James) and Dwyane (Wade) and (Chris) Bosh,” says Nate James. “He was looking for that key guy that would help complement them.

“I said, ‘If you bring Shane in you will never regret it. He’s a winner who is not afraid of the moment and he will make plays to help you win.’ 

Battier signed Dec. 9, 2011.

Says James: “Coach Spoelstra wrote me a note. He said, ‘You were right.’ 

You know, I’ve heard rumors that Battier flops.

“People talk about flopping and all that,” says James. “Shane studies the game, he studies opponents, he knows how to get underneath their skin. Nothing cheap or dirty. He’ll expose you physically or mentally.”

Duke guys stick together. Battier says he talked to Charlotte’s Duke players – Gerald Henderson and Josh McRoberts – during the season, and praises their work.

“It’s a close-knit fraternity, especially when we played for coach K and understand what the program is about and understand what it means to go through the program,” says Battier. “And make it through.”

He laughs when he says, “And make it through.”

When Mercer upset the Blue Devils in the NCAA tournament last month, did you hear about it?

“I usually do when Duke loses,” says Battier. “People really enjoy it.”

Who did you hear from?

“Ball boys, from the concession stands, my teammates,” he says.

LeBron, Wade and Bosh by any chance allude to the result?

Of course they did.

“And that’s all right, that’s all right,” says Battier, laughing an evil laugh. “My line is: There are two stories. If Duke wins or Duke loses, it’s going to be the first five minutes of the sportscast.”

Sorensen: 704-358-511; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen

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