Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Losing Shane Battier

When the trade for Rudy Gay on draft day was made, I was for it. Losing Shane Battier for the chance at a possible superstar was worth it. I will not rush to judgement on Rudy Gay, but if I was a betting man, I would say he will never be a superstar. There are not a ton of superstars in the league. Let me go with this criteria... "a guy you can build a team around." That is what I do not think Rudy will ever be.

I was also alone in feeling that the team needed to recieve a legimate star in return for Battier. I understand what Shane means to a team. Many people do not. Numbers will never guage that guy and what he means to your team winning games. How many points does a guy keep off the board by deflections, taking charges, blocks, etc? Maybe if that added that to your ppg people would get it. Many will look at Battier's numbers and refer to him as mediocre, or average, and will never understand the impact.

I watched last night's Phoenix game and could not help but have full realization of what Battier meant. Gasol and Miller might lead the league in offensive ability/ defensive ability disparity. They are horrendous defensively, just awful. Battier always covered for these guys. He is not there, and he has not been replaced.

Can you build around the guy? No. Will having him translate to playoff wins? Obviously not. But he plays a huge role in making a team a winner. From Elton Brand, to Kevin Garnett, to Lebron James... in the 4th qtr. Battier was guarding them. He is also, if not the best, one of the top 3 "help" defenders in the league. Having the guy on the team made up for a multitude of defensive sins. You only have 5 players on the court, and when 2, or maybe more, of them are horrid defenders, you need a Battier to cover for them.

This team had to do something to shake things up. Battier had value. I understand that. But what I know is that I don't think many realize yet, or ever will, how important he was to making this team a winner at all. Here is what his new coach, Jeff Van Gundy, said about him...

Before Shane Battier took a last-minute charge for the second consecutive game, before he needed eight stitches to close the wound left by that charge, Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy offered high praise. "He's the finest competitor I've coached in my 16 years in the NBA," Van Gundy said. "I've been fortunate. I've been around a lot of great competitors. I've never been around a competitor that plays every play, every day like he does. "The ability to sustain your concentration and your intensity and your focus every play, every day, every practice, every game, it's a unique talent that very few value. But that does have a huge impact on whether you are able to maximize your ability as a team."

People scoffed at losing the guy. People still say, "we only lost Battier." My point is that what the Grizzlies lost was their best post defender and perimiter defender, all in one guy. When people complain about the defense, realize that what is primarily complained about is what was covered up for the last few years by Shane Battier.

How about this? Battier meant more to making the Grizzlies a winning team than people will ever want to admit. Maybe he meant more than any Grizzly in terms of making them winners.