A Perfect Fit: Lakers Should Consider Shane Battier

There aren’t many people that get under Kobe Bryant’s basketball skin. Shane Battier is one of those people. While the Lakers are looking everywhere and anywhere for free-agents this off-season, from former legend Grant Hill to former player Shannon Brown there is one small forward they should take a closer look at. Forget the hoopla surrounding Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, a more realistic hoop head on the Lakers radar is the competent professional that is Shane Battier.

Whereas other big-game guys would take apart the Lakers current roster, Shane would simply fit in. An unassuming non-stat All-Star, who imposes only his opponents, would make for a great addition to the Lake Show. From the locker room, to the bench and the floor, Battier would be a player and fan favorite in an instant.

He’s played with Metta World Peace and Gasol before, and his defensive play on Kobe has garnered the Mamba’s respect, a valuable commodity. The unrestricted free-agent wouldn’t cost the financially grounded Lakers too much. If this 32 year-old with more than a few good years left can be obtained on the veteran’s minimum he could be the guy that helps the Lakers in the big-time without the big bucks.

Another reason Battier may relocate is that Memphis wants him off their books, in order to re-sign former Laker draft choice and Pau trade-bait, Marc Gasol. Now the dream of having both Gasol brothers on the same Laker team is probably not a reality, Battier is more than just a second-best option.

With Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace, Kobe Bryant has two dogs on defense that have earned their spot on the Lakers roster thanks to Kobe’s respect after playing against them. Add the worthy opponent that is Shane Battier and then you have four, strong-minded defensive guys out of the kennel and on the wing-spans of the perimeter.

At key times in a ball game even the best players will have a hard time with these match-up nightmares. Put it this way, Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade could both be double-teamed at the same time by four separate guys who have been used to guarding their opponents best player. Three guys who have been used to guarding one of the best of all-time in Kobe Bryant, as well as Bryant himself. For opposing players, that’s a scary thought.

Sure Dwight Howard and Chris Paul would bring an almost guaranteed championship, but can the Lakers afford them? Trade or otherwise? With Battier the Lakers can replace the soon-to-be retired Luke Walton with another significant contributor who follows the line of other Lakers role greats like Ron Harper and AC. Green (when they came to the Lakers in the twilight of their careers).

Battier’s off-ball excellence and on-court defensive presence may not be heralded worldwide but the purists love it. Think Rick Fox hounded opponents on defense? Shane Battier is a professional pest. The former prestigious Duke class standout came into the league looking like the small forward positions answer to Tim Duncan. No nonsense and all business. Sure he’s no legend, but when it’s all said and done he’ll go down as one of the classiest team players and professionals ever. Is this not an incredible tradition the Lakers will want to continue?

Forget about Battier’s stats. It’s what he does to his opponent’s numbers that are crucial. We are talking about reducing the opposing team’s best players shooting percentage and points. The more he takes off the board, the better his team fares. Get the point? Because Shane does, he doesn’t just get his, he takes it. All the big numbers, all the big plays. All the intangibles that are the difference between championship and imitation champagne.

The Lakers joy will be the rest of the league’s pain if Battier can count to one, two, three, ring. Beyond his board, box outs and tipped balls, Shane Battier can also select his shot and some offense. Get him warm and he can shoot pretty well from three. Sure he doesn’t shoot the lights out, but he’s been known to dim them. His hard work and hustle is also worth some food for thought. He doesn’t just gobble up rebounds and passes, he can also make his way to the cup and hit that open jump shot.

Sure the Lakers are also considering former stars Grant Hill and Rashard Lewis. As good as these guys are their prime has passed somewhat. Battier is still on top of his role playing game and it’s one of the biggest roles a non-star can have. Come playoff time, Shane could produce as many big plays as someone like Derek Fisher. When Kobe and Gasol are out, or Bynum and Odom are having an off-day, Battier can be the guy relied upon to step up and lead others. It’s almost like Battier is a big-time guy that’s never really seen the true prime-time. Sure he’s made some classic contributions in the playoffs, especially against the Lakers, but he’s one NBA Finals away from showing what he’s really worth and getting what he really deserves. Will it be with the Lakers?

His suffocating defense would breathe new life into these Los Angeles Lakers, his veteran experience would prove to be a valuable voice for the Lakers youthful alumni. The respect he’s earned will give him and the Lakers a great mentality. A mentality focused on winning. A philosophy that Jerry Buss, Mitch Kupchak, Mike Brown and Kobe Bryant will want from all their players.

Shane Battier and his basketball I.Q. would be a great start. After all, that’s the smart choice. The Lakers may have failed last year, but now they should be looking at this top basketball student to help now that the lockout is out and class is almost in session. Can Shane Battier pass the test?

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