Even when golfing, Battier still basking in title
STATELINE, Nevada (AP) Shane Battier freely acknowledges that he did not spend much time preparing for the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament.
The Miami Heat forward has been too busy enjoying his first NBA title.
Battier arrived in Lake Tahoe on Wednesday, and the first person he saw stepping off the plane was former NFL great Emmitt Smith, who greeted him by saying "Congratulations, champ."
"Doesn't get any better," Battier said.
Nearly a month after the Heat topped Oklahoma City in five games, Battier is still celebrating, with a couple of days of golf lessons at Duke this week serving as his preparation for Lake Tahoe. So clearly, he's not too worried about where he'll fare in a field expected to include the likes of Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Greg Maddux, John Elway, Tony Romo, Urban Meyer and actor Ray Romano.
After a celeb-am round Thursday, play formally starts Friday.
"Even if I'm terrible, I'm still an NBA champion," Battier said.
Battier shot 58 percent (15 for 26) from 3-point range in the NBA Finals against the Thunder, and his 61 percent shooting from the floor in the series topped anyone who appeared in more than one game of the title matchup.
It was not an easy trip to the title for Miami, which trailed in the second round against Indiana, the Eastern Conference finals against Boston and then dropped the first finals game to Oklahoma City.
"Down 3-2 Boston, to hear the same things we heard in Indiana, then down 1-0 to Oklahoma City, sort of the same process was repeated: `These guys are too old, they're too slow, Oklahoma is too young and hungry,'" Battier said. "So to come back from all those situations and win a championship, it makes it even more special than it already was."
While Battier is playing in this tournament, his teammate LeBron James - the NBA MVP and finals MVP - is preparing for the London Olympics. Future Olympics may not have many of the game's top players, since Commissioner David Stern has said the NBA wants to discuss limiting future trips to the games to players age 23 and under.
Even in Lake Tahoe, that was a conversation topic Wednesday - especially after Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was quoted earlier this week saying the age limit would be "a stupid idea."
"I understand where the commissioner's coming from. His job is to make the best league in the world, the NBA run as smoothly as possible," Battier said. "It's tough when your most highly prized assets are out there risking their day job in the Olympics. So from a business standpoint, I understand where the commissioner's coming from. From a player standpoint, the Olympics are the greatest."
NBA analyst Steve Kerr, also playing in the golf event, said he understood both sides of the argument.
"Maybe if somebody like Kobe wanted to play, maybe give him a waiver as long as he signs off on some kind of a contractual agreement," Kerr said. "I don't know. Maybe there's a way around it. But the commissioner's job is not to help USA Basketball as much as it is to protect his owners."
Battier also talked some Heat business, raving about how Miami was able to add Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis in free agency earlier this month. And when training camp starts in a little over two months, Battier said his team will be ready to get back to work and welcome Allen and Lewis to the mix.
"They're really smart basketball players," Battier said. "They're veteran. They want to win. They want to be around guys who want to win. And trust me, we are going to enjoy this celebration now. We're going to take a nice long, slow victory lap. Once it's time to lace them up again, we'll be ready to do it again. We have a bunch of competitors in that locker room, and we don't want to hand that trophy off to anybody else."
Updated July 18, 2012