The sweet validation of one Shane Courtney Battier

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I asked a group of friends recently what the first thing they think of when they hear the name Shane Battier.

Three people immediately said “Dukie.”

Two people said “Defense.”

And one person said “Smart.”

You can throw another one on there, now. NBA Champion.

Battier obtained another championship to go with his high school and college trophies on Thursday, and in doing so, validates a career that has been unremarkably spectacular, ordinarily amazing, and silently brilliant. Battier came to the Heat as the smart guy who loves tech, the guy featured in an article about being the “No-Stats All-Star,” who defended Kobe Bryant as well as possible, even while knowing he was going to get lit up like a Christmas tree. He was the guy who hit the shot to give the Grizzlies their first franchise playoff win, and the chemistry glue that helped the Rockets to that crazy win streak a few years back.

He was never supposed to be a household name.

And yet here he is. What’s sad is that what it took for Battier to get to that level of notoriety was his work on the offensive end, some of which was an outlier. Battier’s 3-point shooting hit the Thunder, as it did the Celtics before them, like a lightning bolt, a development they can’t believe happened to them. It was an Act of God, basically. What gets lost in that percentage was this point I’ve made several times: the formula the Heat uses is eerily similar to what the Rockets did in ’94 and ’95, and the Lakers in the early 2000’s. A superior inside presence forces the defense to collapse, and a quality passer finds the open shooter on the perimeter. You don’t need crack shooters if you’re that wide open. These are NBA players. They know how to fill their role. Battier knew he had to knock down those shots. And he did.

All the while he handled a series of mismatches that would discourage and bloody any player. Brandon Bass’ superior size and strength. David West’s similar physicality. Kevin Durant’s singular offensive ability. And yet Battier went to the well each time, and made just enough of an impact to create a difference. He wasn’t the reason the Heat won. But he was a huge part of the reasons why LeBron James had an opportunity to be the difference.

Battier never wanted the attention and fame that comes with being a part of this “Hollywood” Heat team, but in a way his addition represents the change in maturity we’ve seen from the Heat. Throughout the season, Battier has been constant in the locker room, always with the intellectual comparison or philosophical quote, giving reporters gold as always. He doesn’t get caught up in the nonsense.

In the videos from after the win, in the champagne drenched celebration in the locker room, there was Battier, looking strangely satisfied in a way we’ve never seen, looking out of place in the crazy exuberance of the victory. And as everyone sprayed champagne and screamed, you couldn’t help but notice that Battier was wearing goggles.

Always thinking ahead.

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”