Miami Heat forward Shane Battier has long been one of the most thoughtful, engaging and all-around intelligent players in the NBA. His candor in interviews has made him a media darling over the years, as his insights into teams—both his own and opponents—are meticulous and well thought out.
So, it's no surprise that when asked about his own NBA mortality by USA Today's Alex Kennedy, that Battier already had an answer in his holster.
While not making an overarching commitment, the 34-year-old forward noted that it's a "good possibility" that he hangs it up after the 2013-14 season, when his three-year deal with Miami expires:
I think I have one more year. My contract is up next year, and I'll reassess where I am, but we'll see. It's a good possibility, a good possibility. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it, and everything in this league is negotiable, but at that point I'll be 36 and it may be time to do something else.
Playing in 72 games for the defending champs, Battier averaged 6.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per game while shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc.
But, as has been the case throughout Battier's career, the counting stats have been secondary in his overall contribution to the Heat. Long a player who was willing to do anything to bring victory to his club, it was Battier's willingness to guard opposing power forwards (and his adeptness at doing so) that allowed Miami to realize its small-ball destiny.
By banging bodies down low on defense, Battier allowed LeBron James to take a more post-heavy role offensively—one that led to the 2013 NBA MVP's finest professional season. The result for the Heat was an offense replete with perhaps the best ball movement in the entire NBA. Battier was also a vital cog offensively, forcing defenses to respect his spot-up jumper, opening up space for James and Dwyane Wade to attack.
However, that toll of guarding opposing big men has seemingly taken a toll on Battier during the postseason. He's looked noticeably dogged on defense—especially against big bangers like David West and Roy Hibbert—while only scoring four points per game in these playoffs. Buoying the theory of Battier's fatigue is the fact that he's made an abhorrent 21.7 percent of his shots, most of which have been open three-pointers.
That inability to knock down an open jumper has forced Battier to the fringes of coach Erik Spoelstra's rotation. Battier played just six minutes in the Heat's 92-88 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, missing all three of his shots. He was also the only active Miami player to not enter the game in the Heat's Game 7 triumph over the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Battier had quite the creative comparison when asked about his diminished role, per the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds:
Perhaps it's that wear and tear that's weighing on Battier's mind, and he'll have a different answer when he has time to think this summer. But for now, the clock seems to be ticking on one of the more underrated players of this generation.
Battier and the Heat are back in action against San Antonio for Game 2 on Sunday.
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