Battier was the sixth overall pick in the 2001 draft, and Memphis’ first selection following the franchise’s move from Vancouver. In five seasons with the Grizzlies, he became the organization’s career leader in games played (396) and steals (507), while ranking second in 3-pointers made (389), third in blocks (418) and fourth in points (4,160).
Following the trade, both the Grizzlies and Battier took out ads in a local newspaper, with Memphis referring to him as an “ambassador” on and off the court.
Battier, who averaged 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds last season, thanked the fans for their support.
“While Memphis is an extraordinary place, it is the people of Memphis that I will miss most,” Battier said in The Commercial Appeal. “You helped me and the team—whether we won or lost. I leave Memphis with great memories.”
The Rockets (1-2) acquired Battier looking for some depth following a season that was devastated by injuries to Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. The duo missed 35 and 25 games, respectively, helping to contribute to a 34-48 record, the team’s worst since 2001-02.
McGrady and Yao are healthy this season, but Houston has dropped two of its first three games, including a 96-90 loss at New Orleans in the opener of a three-game road trip on Sunday.
The Rockets shot just 40.5 percent from the field while committing 21 turnovers, and were undone by a 14-3 run by the Hornets in the fourth quarter.
Battier led Houston with 18 points, while Yao battled through foul trouble to add 17 points and 10 rebounds. McGrady was just 5-of-15 from the floor for 14 points, but also had seven rebounds and seven assists.
“(Yao’s) our bread and butter, and without him in the game, it becomes hard for us to establish something for Tracy,” starting point guard Rafer Alston said.
Memphis has also lost two of its first three contests this season, and is coming off a 95-86 loss at Detroit on Saturday. The Grizzlies are shooting just 38.0 percent from the floor this season and hit only 37.8 percent of their shots against the Pistons, but coach Mike Fratello liked what he saw from his team.
“I guess we have to credit Detroit’s defense,” he said. “They did a great job of challenging our shots. But at the same time, we were being aggressive, taking it to the basket. I was proud of the way the guys battled.”
Hakim Warrick, who started only two games last season, made his third start on Saturday and led Memphis with 21 points. Gay scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds off the bench.
The Grizzlies swept the four-game series between these teams last season, and have gone 11-7 against the Rockets since losing 21 of the first 26 meetings.