Widely renowned as one of the best defensive players of this generation, Shane Battier has earned numerous accolades and developed a reputation as a fearless warrior in a basketball setting. As Battier approaches retirement in just a few short weeks, it's notable that he finds himself in a unique position contending for yet another NBA championship with the Miami Heat.
Battier signed with the Miami Heat in 2011 following their disastrous finals versus the Dallas Mavericks, upon doing so he had an immediate impact on the team's play. Shane acted as an on-ball menace forcing countless turnovers, and working in perfect sync with the Heat. He was always in the right position and ready to sacrifice his body if the game's situation required him to do so. In my mind Battier became "Mr. Reliable" someone the Heat could always depend on no matter what the situation. Following last year's NBA Finals and the departure of Mike Miller, I wrote about Battier's will to win regarding him as a core member of this Miami Heat team. At that point in time, that was the truth, but as we approach the closing weeks of Battier's career his rapid decline as a player is obvious.
Despite averaging single digits in scoring at many points throughout his career, Battier would often make up for it by coming through when most needed. His reputation as a great spot up shooter terrified defences and was a crucial part of last season's victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7. Last season Battier averaged a career high 3-point percentage of 43% this season Battier is averaging a disappointing 35% from beyond the arc. This is a terrible trend, and is extremely evident to basketball enthusiasts when he's on the hardwood.
Last night while watching game 1, I had a friend turn to me and offer a realistic comparable to how Battier has been performing.
"Battier's play resembles a college senior who's so excited to leave school that he ends up doing poorly on his last final"
Battier scored 0 points, had 1 rebound and 1 assists in 13:42 played against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1
This has unfortunately been the case for Battier, who hardly saw minutes in Miami's first series against the Bobcats (2 minutes and 4 seconds to be exact). This of course a response to his level of play and poor decision making when on the floor, something that is extremely uncharacteristic of Battier, but can be made evident through his foul on Paul George in the final seconds of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Perhaps, I'm reading into things, but my memory of strong Battier decisions resemble this:
Battier is crucial to this Miami Heat team, and as he approaches retirement I wish nothing, but the best for him in his career as a broadcaster. He has been one my favourite members on this Miami Heat team of recent years and has no doubt proved his worth, through performances like that of game 7 just one year ago.
This is not to take away from Battier's capability as teammate however. Battier deserved to win the Twyman-Stokes teammate of the year award, as he is no doubt one of the best locker room guys on the planet. Regardless, the Miami Heat need the best effort from every roll player in order to win another championship, and that includes Battier. Underperformance is something, that in the past could generally not be attached to Battier's name, but this year it is. Battier will need to do his best to emulate his performance of last season's finals in order to justify is sub-par play during the regular season, and the postseason up until now. Retirement is just around the corner for Battier, but to go out in a Blaze of glory would be a fitting end to someone who's sacrificed his body more times than I can count.