Shane Battier no stranger to winning streaks
MIAMI -- Shane Battier had a 32-game winning streak in college and now has had 27- and 22-game runs in the NBA.
Battier is one lucky guy. But before you suggest what he needs to do, let it be known he’s already done it.
He’s bought lottery tickets.
“Oh, yeah, I’ve tested my luck at various establishments, to no avail,’’ said the Miami Heat forward. “A couple of scratch-off Lotto tickets.’’
When he had his 22-game streak with the Houston Rockets in 2007-08, Battier figured everything was going so well he might as well try the lottery. He did not add to the $5.9 million salary he made that season.
With that in mind, Battier has abstained from the Florida Lottery during the Heat’s winning streak, which reached 27 with Monday’s 108-94 win at Orlando.
“I don’t want to use up all my luck,’’ Battier said.
It’s more than luck that resulted in Battier being part of all these winning streaks. He’s not some guy at the end of the bench or one who simply has found himself traded to teams that won.
Battier was a big star at Duke -- he was named College Player of the Year as a senior. The Rockets wanted him so much in 2006 they traded Rudy Gay and Stromile Swift for him. And the Heat had been seeking him for years before they finally were able to sign him as a free agent before last season.
“Shane’s a winner,’’ said Heat guard Mario Chalmers. “That’s what it pretty much boils down to.’’
Chalmers should know. He and Battier are among just six active players to have won both an NCAA and NBA title. Chalmers also had a 20-game winning streak at Kansas.
But nobody can touch Battier when it comes to streaks. He’s the only NBA player to have been on two teams that won 20 or more straight games.
“I like to believe that I’ve played my role and my role has had a hand in the team success that I’ve been a part of,’’ said Battier, averaging 6.6 points and shooting 42.7 percent from 3-point range while also playing lock-down defense for the Heat. “But I’ve also been blessed to have some fantastic teammates and coaches, and I’ve been lucky.’’ Battier’s first extended winning streak actually was at Detroit Country Day High School, when his team reeled off 21 straight victories from his junior season of 1995-96 into his senior year. Country Day High School coach Kurt Keener said that streak didn’t end until Battier missed a game due to an elbow injury. Battier was out four games, three of them losses. Take out those games and Keener said Battier was on the winning side in the final 36 games he played at Country Day. That would tie him with LeBron James, who won his first 36 games at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, from 1999-2001, for the longest overall individual streak any current Heat player ever has had. Battier’s longest team winning streak actually turned out to be bittersweet. In 1998-99, Battier’s sophomore season, Duke ran off 32 straight wins to reach the NCAA title game against Connecticut.
The Blue Devils, also featuring Elton Brand, Trajan Langdon and Corey Maggette, were favored. But they fell 77-74 to finish the season 37-2.
“We were just rolling. That was the fun part of the winning streak,’’ Battier said. “But we didn’t play well (in the title game). That was our worst game of the season and it came at the worst time. That was a really good UConn team, so it wasn’t like we got upset by a poor team. But we were disappointed we didn’t show being the dominant team we were throughout that season.’’
Battier, though, did get an NCAA championship ring when he was a senior in 2001. That team went 35-4, but had no winning streak longer than 10 games.
Flash forward seven years later and Battier was part of a most unexpected run. The Rockets won 22 in a row despite star center Yao Ming having been lost for the season due to injury midway through the streak. Everything went right for 1 ½ months on a team that would finish 55-27 and lose in the first round of the playoffs.
“That was our championship,’’ Battier said about the streak. “The city was on fire. The city was galvanized by that streak.’’
Now, Battier is on the team that has supplanted Houston for having the second-longest winning streak in NBA history and is challenging the Los Angeles Lakers’ record 33-game run of 1971-72. After having had seven games of making three or more 3-pointers during the Rockets’ streak, he’s had 10 during Miami’s run.
Battier also has made valuable defensive plays during the streak. The most notable was blocking a shot by forward Jeff Green in the closing seconds, enabling Miami to survive 105-103 March 18 at Boston.
“He is the definition of a winner,’’ said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “And every play he makes is a winning play… It’s almost to the point now where we don’t take it for granted so much. He’s also irreplaceable because of those winning qualities.’’
As much as the Heat are winning lately, though, Battier said this streak hasn’t caused as much commotion in town as the one did in Houston. One reason is the bigger quest in Miami is to win a second straight title.
“People enjoy it,’’ Battier said. “But people are getting pumped for the playoffs, and they’re more focused on getting ready for the playoffs. It's not as crazy as in Houston, where you were reminded everywhere you went.’’
Still, Battier has gotten his share of well wishes lately in Miami.
“From the FedEx guy, and then I had a waitress say, ‘Keep it going,’’’ Battier said.
The server got a good tip from Battier. It might have been even bigger if he could win lotteries the way he does basketball games.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson