SAPPORO — One big difference between this Team USA compared to American teams in previous FIBA tournaments is that it has players who are devoted to dirty work, the thankless jobs that don’t light up the scoreboard.
Forward Shane Battier is one such player for the team. Although he doesn’t get as much applause as stars like LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, he fills a vital role.
“I love playing with Shane because he does all the little things, like taking charges, chasing the ball, playing great defense,” U.S. post player Elton Brand said of Battier after Sunday’s game against China. “When you look at this guy, he may be scoring seven, but he’s responsible for numerous points as well as good defense. I really appreciate what he does.”
Battier has averaged only 10.5 points per game in his five-year NBA career, but his all-around ability has been lauded by his teammates and coaches.
The 27-year-old Battier, who is 203 cm tall, averaged 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game last season with the Memphis Grizzlies, but next season he will be doing his work in another city.
On July 12, Battier was traded to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Rudy Gay, the No. 8 pick in the 2006 draft, and forward Stromile Swift, which means he will play with Chinese center Yao Ming next season.
Asked what kind of player he is, Battier said, “I’m an energy guy. My game is not measured by how many points I score, how many rebounds I get, but by how many ‘floor burns’ I get. If I get four ‘floor burns,’ I think I had a pretty good game.”
This World Championship is special for both Battier and Brand because they are playing on the same team for the first time since they played together at Duke University, where Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski coached the duo.
“It’s a great honor to represent Team USA, under my former coach, Coach K,” said Brand, a Los Angeles Clipper forward. “He’s a great coach and knows how to play in a right way. Me and Shane were just talking about that. He tells us to play selfless. He doesn’t care about anything but winning.”
Even though their achievements may be intangible, Battier and Brand could be keys to the U.S. team if it brings home gold at worlds.