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Wednesday October 1, 2008 7:31 PM

Catching Up With Shane Battier


Defensive ace dishes on dream jobs, fatherhood and birthday bashes

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Staff Writer

HOUSTON - For notes from today's practice, please click here. In the meantime, our "Catching up with..." series continues today as Rockets.com's Jason Friedman chats with Shane Battier.

JCF: Alright, we've all had plenty of time to discuss and dissect your injury, so no need to go there. Let's instead talk about the rest of your very eventful summer.

SB: Outside of my ankle, it was an unbelievably great summer. The birth of my first son, Zeke Edward, and a lot of sleepless nights - I didn't get much rest this summer. But it was an experience that I never dreamed would be as great as it was and it is. It's just a wonderful, wonderful thing.

JCF: How has it changed your life?

SB: I'm a pretty goal-oriented person and I move on to the next thing in my life pretty quickly, and a lot of times I don't really stop to savor the small victories. I think watching Zeke grow everyday and just watching him progress, I've learned to celebrate the small things in life like the day he started smiling, the day he started grabbing my fingers, the day he started recognizing me as his dad - or at least the big guy with the deep voice. Those are all amazing milestones that you learn to appreciate.

JCF: A lot of people also mention how fatherhood forces them to be more unselfish individuals since you have to start truly putting someone else's interests above your own. Have you found that to be the case as well?

SB: Oh yeah. I think of how fatherhood will impact me as a basketball player. Usually when I have a bad game, I come home and take it out on myself. I'm not the happiest person. I don't take it out on my wife, but she knows I'm not a happy camper. Then when I have a great game, I have that high that comes with a job well done. Well, when I go home at night now, my man doesn't care if I had two points or twenty points; if we won or lost. As long as I'm a good father, that's all he cares about.

I feed him, love him, burp him and all those things, so it gives you a different perspective. I think it will give me a peace of mind to go out and play freer, not live and die by my nightly performance because that's a tough way to survive in this league.

JCF: I know you're also a video game guy, so I have to ask: Has fatherhood cut into your game time?

SB: Yeah, well... If anything, my sleep time has been cut. When my wife Heidi goes to bed around ten or ten-thirty, I know I have about an hour or hour and a half window for myself - and I still think personal time is very important for me so I can unwind and relax. My video game playing became pretty nocturnal. So from about midnight to one, or eleven to midnight, that's when I got my college football games in.

JCF: So that's what your playing these days? No Madden or NBA?

SB: I've always been a college football guy.

JCF: And do I even need to ask who your team is?

SB: You know, right now I'm playing with Eastern Michigan...

JCF: You traitor.

SB: (laughs) My mother-in-law went to Eastern Michigan so I'm honoring her and I have a pretty good dynasty going. I like talking the small guys and making them big dogs.

JCF: Have you taken them to the national title game yet?

SB: No, I'm the MAC champ, but I'm still waiting to get the invite to go to the Big-10. And once I go there and get some recruits I think I'll be alright.

JCF: Any Heisman winners?

SB: Yep, I did get a Heisman winner.

JCF: Okay, let's talk books. What was on your summer reading list?

SB: I read "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama. It was a fascinating book, I'm a big fan of his. I thought it was a wonderful book. I'm not a big politico, or a guy who follows politics heavily, but it was a good lesson in the human psyche as it relates to politics.

JCF: That's a perfect segue for my next question. Everyone always talks about how you have the potential to be a great politician after your playing days are over, so which would you rather be: President of the United States or commissioner of the NBA?

SB: (laughs) I think in each instance you'd deal with some great people and some knuckleheads (laughs).

JCF: How politically correct of you...

SB: Well, I don't know if I'm ready to be the leader of the free world quite yet. So for my first career, I think being commissioner of the NBA would be a great training ground for being the president (laughs).

JCF: Alright, so in this dream world, what would be the first change you'd institute?

SB: Shorter seasons. The NBA season only needs to be fifty games. I think the fans would love it because every game would mean so much more, like in college where every game is so important. Players would love it because it saves wear and tear on their bodies. I think TV people would like it because more people would watch. I just think it would be a great thing.

JCF: So essentially what you're saying is that you'd be commissioner for one day because the owners would give you the boot the second you made that suggestion.

SB: (laughs) Yes they would. The owners would stand to lose some money and I think players would, too. But I think the idea wouldn't be dismissed quite as easily as you'd think.

JCF: Now I also heard you had quite the birthday bash. Can you tell us about your party?

SB: Well, I turned thirty this summer, so my wife wanted to do something special for me. I sorta knew something was coming down the pipe, but I didn't know exactly what. But little did I know, my wife had been planning all summer a Caddyshack-themed thirtieth. I love Caddyshack, one of the greatest movies of all time, and all my buddies came in from out of town and surprised me. They were all dressed up in characters from the movie. Mike Dunleavy came and he was dressed up as Greg Norman, so it was a golf/Caddyshack theme and it was just a phenomenal party.

JCF: And did they have you dressed up as a character as well once you found out?

SB: Well, I don't know if you've seen it, but on occasion I wear my green jacket. I have a green jacket that I didn't win, let's just say, but I acquired. And the only instructions my wife told me to follow were to make sure I dressed with a collared shirt and I had to wear my green jacket. And that's all I knew.

JCF: Well you had that going for you... which was nice.

SB: I knew it was going to be a classy affair. Whatever it was, if it involves the green jacket it's going to be a classy affair (laughs). Little did I know it was going to be that classy (laughs).

JCF: Alright, well I can't let you go without asking at least one basketball question. Obviously, this is a season of great expectations, but it's all theoretical at this point. What are your personal thoughts about this team right now?

SB: Obviously, with the new pieces, we have a long ways to go for everything to really come together. The team we have now is going to be an entirely different team fifty games into the season. I think to reach our potential, we have to stay healthy. That's really the only thing holding us back.

We have the coaching that will bring us together, we have the players that will be able to execute the gameplan so, from a basketball standpoint, I'm not concerned. We know that if we follow the gameplans we'll have a shot to win every single night. It's a matter of can we withstand injury and can we stay healthy. Any NBA champion or teams that make runs deep into the playoffs, they have health, so that's been the one thing this organization has been lacking the last six or seven years. So if we can finally capture the secret formula for staying healthy - and I'm not doing a very good job of it, obviously - I think it will make the difference in our season.

JCF: I know that you're an optimist, but are you worried at all with so many guys coming off surgery, not to mention that history to which you were referring?

SB: Well, that history doesn't mean anything. Basketball is a freak game and a lot of injuries take place that are just freak; you can't really prevent them. What you try to do is you hope guys take care of themselves and do as much preventative measures as you can to stay healthy. With the guys who have nagging injuries, taking care of it can go so far. And being proactive, as opposed to retroactive, will go a long ways. So hopefully we have the right attitude, and knowing what's at stake can make a difference.

JCF: I'm also starting to see why you'd want that fifty game schedule you were talking about...

SB: Yeah, if it was fifty games you'd be able to play for a long, long time.

JCF: What about chemistry? You've got the core of last year's team back, but you've added some new pieces as well.

SB: Well, it starts with the coach and we have an outstanding coach. If there's one strong suit of coach Adelman, it's developing chemistry. We had amazing chemistry last year that was evidenced in the 22-game winning streak. And we have good guys who want to win. And as long as you have those things, the chemistry will come. Now if you win a few games, chemistry seems to come a bit easier. So it's on us to win a few games and find our identity as a team. But I'm confident that we have the coaching staff in place that will develop us and bring us closer together as a team.

Have a question for Rockets.com? Send it to Jason Friedman via email at: jasonf@rocketball.com.