While the feelings are still raw with the loss of 16 regular season games, the National Basketball Association is doing its level best to even the score on Christmas day. It is almost game time.
The good news for fans of the Miami Heat is the team has made a subtle, yet very important free-agent move over the last week. The addition of Shane Battier does the Heat a major service in several areas, both offensively and defensively.
Battier is a durable player, having played fewer than 78 games just twice in his 10 NBA seasons. A lack of durability caused the Heat and its fans headache after chemistry-attempting headache in round one of “Three Kings.”
With the former Duke Blue Devil, the Heat can be assured of what effort will come on a nightly basis. Battier will consistently bring an energy that resembles the defensive aggression the Heat utilized to get to the NBA Finals last season.
Battier is well known for his ability to bother Kobe Bryant in the mid-range game, sliding a hand in between the ball and Mamba’s eyes.
Clearly no one player can stop Bryant, but Battier has done a good job over the years, pestering the other best shooting guard most people have ever seen.
Having the ability to get off of the floor quickly only adds to the options head coach Erik Spoelstra has defensively. The Heat hung its proverbial hat on forcing opposing top players into tough looks at the basket a season ago.
Offensively, the assumed notion is Battier will find a soft location in the Heat offense to take spot-up jump shots. He has been most accurate from the short corner over the course of his career. There is no reason to believe the rims are any less kind to open jump shooters in South Florida.
It is assumed that Mike Miller will man the off-guard position in crunch time, but his inconsistent open shooting and defensive lateral movement leave a bit to be desired. Ironically enough, Miller is injured again and will probably have to repeat that chemistry process that effectively derailed his first season in Miami.
The addition of Battier looks good on paper. He brings the defensive tenacity the fits the mold of a LeBron James-led group. Furthermore, he is not known for stepping outside of his own abilities when possessions are at a premium.
However, games are not played on offseason free-agent paper. Battier is now 33 with plenty of miles on the legs. More importantly, he has never played in a game past the second round.
It remains to be seen if this acquisition will pay dividends, but the odds are certainly higher than those of Eddy Curry.