Heat’s Shane Battier relishing return to starting lineup against Nets

Shane Battier played 26 minutes in the Heat's Game 1 victory against the Nets.

Steve Mitchell/Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

MIAMI — Shane Battier remained confident he’d get another chance to help the Miami Heat despite a reduced role in recent weeks.

The Duke grad was less certain he would produce when asked.

"I’m older," Battier, 35, said with a laugh after Wednesday afternoon’s light practice. "It’s like driving an old car — you don’t know if it will start up again."

After playing little more than two minutes during the first-round sweep of Charlotte, the 13-year NBA veteran scored eight points and hit two of four 3-point tries to help the Heat rout the Brooklyn Nets 107-86 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal Tuesday night.

Battier, who plans to retire after the season, knew the winner of the Brooklyn-Toronto series would help dictate his conference-semifinal role.

"I knew once the Nets won I probably would get the nod," said Battier, alluding to the Nets’ smaller, perimeter-based lineup than what the Raptors would have sported.

"That’s why I continued to work hard during the Bobcats series. I had a feeling, that’s why it wasn’t a huge surprise."

Battier learned of his return to the lineup from coach Erik Spoelstra on Monday.

"It was nothing dramatic," Spoelstra said. "I told him what his task was, and the change we were making, and here are the things that we need. There’s no (Knute) Rockne speeches about it. We’re way past all of this stuff. It’s very clear-cut.

"You have to have the right guys. Shane … he’s the best. He does not get caught up in a lot things that people get caught up in."

Battier averaged 4.1 points during the regular season, his third with Miami. He played in 73 games with 56 starts overall, but he started just four of the final 19 games. Two of those late-season starts occurred when LeBron James and Chris Bosh rested for the playoffs by sitting out the final two games.

It was forward Udonis Haslem, who himself had been a victim of long inactivity during the middle of the season, who replaced Battier in the lineup. Haslem started against the Bobcats, before Battier returned for Game 1 against the Nets.

"Shane has started enough games for us that it wasn’t a big issue," James said. "And U.D. has started enough games for us that it wasn’t a big issue."

Haslem played 2:13 in Game 1 and could be relegated to more significant bench time the rest of the series. Then again, perhaps his physical presence will be needed in Game 2 on Thursday night.

"There’s no bigger adjustment (than) from Game 1 to Game 2," Battier said. "Most of it is physical, it’s not going to me mental. We have to expect a much more physical game, a much more just intense effort on their part. There’s no way to prepare yourself, but we know it’s coming."

Battier and Haslem are two veterans on an experienced team that, along with some injuries, allowed Spoelstra to constantly alter his rotation during the season.

"I don’t think you can play Lineup Twister with a team averaging under 25, not going to work," Battier said, "just for the fact the egos and young guys trying to establish themselves in the league and wouldn’t be able to intellectualize it.

"We have guys who have been around, and we understand we’re here to win championships. Although we may not agree all the time, that’s OK. It might not make you happy, it’s OK. We understand."

Battier said there’s a strong bond among the members of a reserve unit that includes veterans such as guard Ray Allen and forwards Chris Andersen and Rashard Lewis.

"We stay ready and support each other — a very underrated aspect of all this," Battier said. "Guys who are in and out are connected together and we want others to do well."

That also leads to shared moments on the bench and in the locker room.

"We have our jokes, private jokes," Battier said. "That will be in my book when it comes out. Sorry, I gotta save some things."

You can follow Charlie McCarthy on Twitter @mccarthy_chas or email him at mac1763@bellsouth.net.