Battier, Curry – 2001 picks – arrive in Miami

Shane Battier and Eddy Curry were separated by two picks in the

2001 NBA draft. On Saturday, there was a moment when they weren’t

separated by anything.

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.”

Battier will earn $9 million over three years. He could have

made more money elsewhere, as James, Wade, Bosh, Udonis Haslem and

Mike Miller all could have when they signed deals with Miami last

year.

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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