Battier, Curry - 2001 picks - arrive in Miami
The scene: First Miami Heat practice of the season, first day with the team job for both men. Curry sets a screen, and Battier comes crashing into him.
Sounded like a one-sided matchup.
''I won't be doing that again,'' Battier said afterward. ''You hope that he's matured enough to understand that he's got a great opportunity here.''
The Heat know that's not an issue for Battier. They hope Curry is willing to come along on the same ride.
All but out of the league for the last three seasons, Curry's contract was completed early Saturday, not long before he, Battier, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the Heat took the court for the team's first full practice of training camp. A slew of Miami signees and training-camp hopefuls were in the building Friday getting checked out and deals completed, but only six players were cleared for what became a shooting session disguised as the first workout.
Saturday, the work got real for the reigning Eastern Conference champions.
''I feel good,'' Curry said, his sweat pooling on the floor where he stood and spoke after Miami's practice ended. ''Obviously, these guys are at a whole other level here. So I've got some work to do, but I'm willing to do it. I'm a lot closer than what I thought I would be. I feel good, I'm going to give it my all and I'm going to try to help these guys win some games.''
The early assessment from Curry's new teammates: He can help. Curry wouldn't say what he weighs - he was last listed at 295 pounds or so - but said he's dropped 70 pounds to get ready for this chance with Miami.
After playing in only 10 games over the past three seasons, the Heat signed Curry for about $1 million, a classic low-risk, maybe-high-reward ploy.
''Obviously, when he was healthy and playing at his peak form, he was a power in the paint,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ''He really was. ... So that's what this is about. It's about an opportunity. He had a very good day today.''
James and Wade have known Curry for years, and much as they reached out to help recruit Battier, they made sure Curry knew they wanted him, too.
''He's humbled and he's blessed to have this opportunity again,'' James said. ''For us as teammates, we're just going to stress the fact that he has no pressure at all. We're happy to have him here and we want him to just love the game of basketball like he did once before. You can see his smile. You can see his passion. And we're happy. We're excited as a team but we're more excited for him.''
Excited pretty much sums up what Battier was feeling on the first night teams could contact him as a free agent.
For a team that spoke of upgrading at point guard and center this offseason, their first move was to reach out to someone who plays neither position - and Battier was duly impressed. He's been close with the family of Heat owner Micky Arison for years; Nick Arison, the owner's son and the new Heat CEO, was Duke's team manager when Battier played for the Blue Devils, and they were together for the team's run to the 2001 NCAA title.
Never mind that he once handled Battier's sweaty workout clothes. Nick Arison is now Battier's boss.
''Nick probably has better stories about our shenanigans back at Duke than I can tell you here today,'' Battier said. ''But Nick's been a friend. And I've always respected what Nick has done personally and professionally. When you have a chance to do something special, it's always better - and it always feels more special - when you get to do whatever that journey is with people you enjoy and respect and like.''
So in that respect, Battier is already fitting into one part of the Heat culture.
''He took a pay cut to be here,'' Wade said. ''That doesn't go unnoticed here in Miami. It might go unnoticed elsewhere, but here in Miami, we appreciate that.''
Heat President Pat Riley said that even though other teams could offer Battier more dollars, he thought the combination of being part of a championship-contending club and a reunion with the Arison family would be tough for the former Memphis and Houston swingman to ignore.
In the end, he was right.
''I thought we had a good shot for the reasons that I felt he would want to come here,'' Riley said. ''I thought he would probably want to play on a great team ... an opportunity to win a championship. As he said, a lot of guys will say, `I'd like to go play for a championship,' but they're not talking about role. He's going to have a very specific role here.''
Notes: The Heat completed their training camp roster by signing forward Derrick Byars, guards Cameron Jones, Jeremy Wise and Terrel Harris and center Mickell Gladness, who was in Miami's camp a year ago. ... G Eddie House said there's no timetable for his return from surgery on his left knee last month, though he was in practice gear and shooting on Saturday, as was G-F Mike Miller (hernia surgery).
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