After being one of coach Erik Spoelstra’s first options off the bench last season, Shane Battier began this season in the Miami Heat’s starting lineup.
Battier started Miami’s first 13 games of the season but was knocked out of the rotation when he missed three games with a slight knee injury.
Even though he has been back for the past five games, Battier has not returned to the starting lineup.
“He’s one of our top six, and I could start him tomorrow,” Spoelstra said. “The thing about Shane is he’s so mature, so pure, such a pro. He gets it. ‘Whatever you need coach.’ But we need to have him on the court. Whether I start him or not, he needs to be a major contributor.”
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As is the case with the Heat, it’s nothing personal. And Battier isn’t taking his new role as a slight in any sense.
Battier is now coming off the bench as part of Miami’s second wave of players but is getting about the same minutes he did when he was starting.
It’s obvious Battier, now in his second season with the Heat, is a very valued part of Spoelstra’s lineup — whether he starts or not.
“After 12 years, you realize what is going on when you are playing and maintaining a routine,” Battier said. “I don’t put much stock in starting or coming off the bench. I know I’m going to get my minutes.
“It’s a matter of what I do when I’m on the floor. I’m going to come in, get some threes up, play some tough defense and bring some energy to the floor.”
Udonis Haslem, who had seen his minutes reduced this season, has started in Battier’s place the past two games and four of the past five.
Rashard Lewis was given a shot at it during Battier’s three-game absence.
However, it seems that Haslem has brought a little more energy when he has been in the starting five for the Heat.
“When I come off the bench, I watch the game to see what kind of pace it is at,” Haslem said. “I try to maintain that pace and tone. But as a starter, I’m setting that — especially on defense and in rebounding.”
Said Battier: “You do have a different perspective of the game coming off the bench. You notice if the starting group has a low-energy start. But this team is different than most. We can create a turnover and get a dunk from LeBron [James] or Dwyane [Wade], and we wake up instantly.”
Battier, who is in his 12th NBA season, went through his first extended postseason last spring.
Although some fans might not have appreciated what Battier brought to the Heat before — and, he did get off to a slow start last year — Spoelstra said that wasn’t the case around the team.
“What he did during the playoffs was the guy we tried to get for five years,” Spoelstra said of the former Duke standout.
“Literally, for five years, he was at the top of our list. We needed to get him here. He’s a Miami Heat-type player. He’s does so many little things. … The average fan may not see what he does, but trust me, coaches do. Players do. Everyone in this gym knows how valuable he is.”
News and notes
The Heat basically had a full complement of players Monday with only Terrel Harris missing.
Spoelstra said Ray Allen was popped in the face during a noncontact warmup drill but still participated after slipping on a pair of Oakley wrap-around tinted goggles. Spoelstra seemed to get a kick out of Allen’s eyewear.
“Ray got knocked in the face, in the eye,” Spoelstra said. “He brought out the Dwyane Wade shades for the rest of the practice. … I don’t know if he’ll wear those shades [Tuesday against Minnesota], but he wore them the whole practice.’’
• Minnesota guard Ricky Rubio told The Minneapolis Star Tribune on Monday that he would play later that night against the host Magic — and skip Tuesday game in Miami. Rubio is being held out of back-to-back games after having knee surgery.
• All-Star forward Kevin Love is back after injuring his thumb and is expected to play Tuesday.
“You gameplan more for how they play. They have a lot of playmakers,” Spoelstra said on the challenge of facing the Wolves. “They all play fast, high IQ and like all [coach] Rick Adelman teams, they play unselfish and move. It’s a beautiful style of basketball.”