Mind Over Matter: Shane Battier
By James Oyola
In professional sports, size is one of the ingredients that can give a competitor the edge in a game, but when a player is undersized the possibility of getting outplayed by an opponent is high.
Entering his 12th season in the NBA, Miami HEAT forward Shane Battier has always been recognized as one of the league’s best defenders. Despite playing on the wing for most of his career, HEAT Head Coach Erik Spoelstra decided to maximize Battier’s potential and move him to the power forward position. In the NBA, power forwards usually range from 6’8 to 6’11 feet tall and 240 pounds or more. If you ask Battier (6’8, 225), he isn’t fazed by the challenge.
“I’m undersized every night, but I like to think I’m quicker in the mind,” Battier said.
The adjustment was made to have a greater impact on the team’s defensive strategies and it has. The HEAT finished the regular season ranked fifth in points allowed (95 ppg). For Battier, it has also made an impact on his offense production as he is able to free himself up for more jump shots. During the regular season, Battier shot a career-high, and team-leading, 43 percent from the three-point range.
“He is the definition of a winner,’’ said Spoelstra. “And every play he makes is a winning play. He’s also irreplaceable because of those winning qualities.’’
When commenting on his role on the team Battier mentioned, “I just try to keep an even keel. I’m not too high or too low.” With a smooth blend of offense, and a keen defensive mentality, Battier’s presence on the floor, and in the locker room, has left lasting impressions on his teammates.
“He’s a defensive minded guy with a very high basketball IQ,” said teammate Udonis Haslem. “He brings so many things to the table that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”
Battier’s ability to rotate defensively and apprehend guards or forwards is invaluable, as is his timely placement in moving around the court on both ends of the floor. Although he is not known for filling up the stat sheet, Battier’s game is a collection of strengths that add to the team as a whole. The standout veteran makes the team better and, more importantly, possesses the right attitude to overcome any challenges thrown his way.
“To be honest with you, at this point of my career, it’s what I needed,” Battier said. “I’m 34 years old, and I enjoy a good challenge. This is something that I look forward to figuring out.”