Rockets acquire Battier in three-player deal with Memphis
Rockets finalize deal that sends Gay and Swift to Grizzlies
By Damien Pierce
HOUSTON - Shane Battier has heard rumblings that Rockets fans weren't thrilled with the NBA Draft night trade that sent him to Houston.
He is convinced that he won't have any trouble changing their minds.
"I understand the reaction of fans because draft night is all about the potential of your draft pick," Battier said. "So I wasn't really upset about the reaction. I'm just going to work hard, play the right way and help this team win some basketball games. If I do that, fans will come around."
On Wednesday, Battier took the first step to altering opinions.
Battier changed his address for a new location in the Bayou City as the Rockets' draft night trade with the Memphis Grizzlies became official.
The Rockets acquired Battier by shipping swingman Rudy Gay, the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft, and forward Stromile Swift to Memphis.
Despite Gay's potential, the Rockets made the move because Battier is a proven veteran who could immediately help the franchise return to the playoffs. He is regarded as one of the league's top defenders and will divide his time between three different positions for the Rockets.
Battier spent his introductory press conference at the Toyota Center promising fans that he'll help get the Rockets back into the playoffs. He imagines such an effort will win over any fans who are still questioning the deal.
"Since kiddie ball, I've always tried to make winning basketball plays," Battier said. "I expect to do that here because I'm a player who can come in and make this team better."
Battier, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, leaves Memphis after five seasons in which he became the franchise's all-time leader in games played (396) and steals (507). He has averaged 10.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game over his career. Last season, he knocked down 48.8 percent of shots, including 39.4 percent of his three-point attempts. He managed to play 81 games last season despite having a dislocated finger.
Battier's shooting touch should help a team that needed to improve its perimeter shooting in the off-season and he immediately upgrades the Rockets' defense as a guy who can guard a another team's best offensive threat.
The 6-foot-8, 220-pound small forward isn't necessarily the quickest or most athletic player in the league. But he is a scrappy player who does all the little things to help a team win.
"I feel like I can elevate my game here," Battier said. "Tracy (McGrady) and Yao (Ming) create a lot of shots for everyone else and I feel like I can step up and knock down those shots."
The Rockets went into the draft hoping to land either Washington's Brandon Roy or Villanova's Randy Foye with the eighth pick. But after both players were selected, the Rockets began seeking trade offers. Gay didn't fit with the Rockets because the team was seeking a player who would have an immediate impact.
Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson said Memphis called offering Battier and the deal was too good to pass up.
"We were very excited when we heard that Shane was available," Dawson said. "We made the deal without hesitation."
Swift leaves the Rockets after only one season with the team. He started five games with the team and averaged 8.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Battier and McGrady both played small forward last season, but Dawson said both players can play three positions on the floor.
Although McGrady would seem to be the likely candidate to play shooting guard full-time, the Rockets plan on rotating lineups with the two players. Battier could also share time with Juwan Howard at power forward.
"When Tracy is healthy, he can do anything he wants to do on the court," Dawson said. "There's no doubt in my mind he could play the two-guard, but I don't think we want him chasing other two-guards all year on defense. We have a lot of flexiblity with two players who can play three diffent spots."
Battier plans to hang around Houston over the next week searching for a new house with his wife and meeting with the Rockets' coaching staff.
He leaves town later this month to begin trying out for the U.S. national team in Las Vegas.
After that, Battier will show fans in Houston what he has to offer.
"I got all kinds of calls from people in the basketball world who congratulated us on a great pickup because they know want Shane can do for us," Dawson said. "I understood why fans reacted the way they did to the trade, but Shane is going to become a very popular player in Houston for many years to come."