Shane Battier joined the Miami Heat at the beginning of last season. The veteran had been in the league for 10 years without appearing in the NBA Finals.
The Heat were coming off a loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 Finals, and conventional thinking was that they would only improve on that performance during the second year of the "Big" 3 experiment.
Like countless title-less veterans before him, Battier signed with the Heat because they gave him the best shot at a championship. He took on a smaller role than he had on nearly every other team in his career because when your teammates are players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, there isn't much need for additional offensive production.
Shane Battier played 23 minutes a game and shot only 38.7 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range and never seemed to be completely in sync, even on the defensive end where he has been consistently stellar throughout his career. He seemed a step slow all year, but those struggles disappeared when the Heat reached the Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
When Miami need him to step up most -- as Chris Bosh recovered from injury and veterans like Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem were slowed by their various ailments -- Battier upped his game. In the NBA Finals, his playing time went up to 38 minutes a game, and he shot 58 percent from 3 as the Heat beat the Thunder in five games.
The stress of defending a title will have no effect on the Heat since they have faced hostile environments and full effort from their opponents since "The Decision." Battier's role will undoubtedly change, though, because he is another year older and will face a full 82-game season instead of a lockout-shortened one like last year.
Philip is a Duke alum and a lifelong Duke basketball fan.
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