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.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.