Roy Hibbert has officially called out Shane Battier.
And he has every right to do so.
Adding to David West's claims that Battier moves into his knees on defense, Hibbert said, via CBSSports.com:
I'm always going to protect myself...Watch my knees, watch my groin. It's not just Battier. Everybody in the league at this point will do whatever it takes to win and if that's what's necessary, it's fine.
Hibbert added: "Obviously I don't like it. But it's a part of the game. I don't want to look back and say I gave in to a dirty player."
We all know players like Battier. They are scrappy, they are feisty, they are...irritating. They find every way to get under your skin for the better of their respective team. And, honestly, if they have been doing this their entire careers with no word from officials, why wouldn't they use such tactics?
But that doesn't mean they should be free from criticism.
Make no mistake about it, Battier is a dirty player. Depending on your perspective, that's either deplorable or commendable. For those who liked the rough and rugged style of basketball back in the day, they may even sport a Shane Battier jersey. For those who feel such tactics are cheap, they are much more likely to burn said jersey.
I'm not taking everything away from Battier, mind you. In a world where physical specimens jump from the top of the key to dunk on your head, it's actually remarkable the less athletic 34-year-old has lasted 12 years in the league. There is no denying he's an incredible and intelligent player, fitting the stereotype of a Duke player coached under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski.
But, from my perspective, I am taking something away from Battier. You may say that they are professional athletes on the highest level and that they should be able to handle a little dirty play. But when you are going for guys' knees, especially when they have had ACL injuries like West has, you cross the line in my mind. That is potentially career-threatening and has no place in the game.
I can see the shots flying at Hibbert now. He's a wuss. He's not being tough enough. He towers over Battier and, therefore, he shouldn't be complaining about a little bit of rough play from the 6'8", 225-pound forward.
I don't buy it. It's dirty and it's cheap and, frankly, it's cheating. I feel the same way about Battier's tactics as I do about flopping. It should not only draw a whistle, it should draw a fine from the league.
Of course, the reality is it's really the onus of the officials. If they allow this to go on, I don't necessarily blame players for continuing to be sneaky. Therefore, I believe the officials need to do a better job of, well, officiating the game.
Old-timers look back at the "glory years" of basketball when "men were men" and you weren't man enough if you hobbled off the court with just one bad knee. But, the reality is a lot of the stars of yore now have serious problems with their bodies. We owe it to the athletes to look out for them the best we can.
I don't expect Battier to change his ways without a crackdown from officials. But, as they say, identifying the problem is the first step in solving it.