One of the most difficult jobs in the NBA is the role of having to guard the opposing teams leading scorer on a nightly basis. Guys like Bruce Bowen, Trenton Hassell, and Raja Bell have had long and distinguished careers playing the role of defensive stopper. However, when discussing the elite defenders in the NBA, one name that always comes up is Shane Battier.
Battier played a huge role in helping Houston defeat the Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs last year. Prior to the season opener tonight, Battier talked about the mentality he has when guarding a guy like Brandon Roy.
"The first thing you have to understand is these guys are really good," Battier explained. "They're going to score their points, so you don't get caught up in trying to shut these guys down. What you do is you try to make them miss and be efficient as possible. Knowing they are going to score points, hopefully it will be on a lot of shots. If they do that in the context of the team game, then it hurts the team. That's what you try to do as a guy guarding the top scorers.
Throughout his career in the league, Battier has always been a role player on the offensive end of the court. Even with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady out because of injury, Battier insists that he won't start forcing his shot when it's not there.
"I'm going to play the same way I've always played. I'm going to be opportunistic," Battier said of his role on this team. "Obviously, there are more shots available without Yao and Ron (Artest) around, but it's not like I'm going in there thinking I have to average 20 points a game. I'm going to go in and be aggressive. I'm going to do what it takes to help this team win games."
Battier knows that this Houston Rockets team is much different from the group that defeated Portland last year in the playoffs. At this point, the main focus is finding an identity and building momentum with this group.
"It's a little different for us because Yao is out. We have such a new team. It would be a different story if we had our same roster from last year, where we were looking to continue on our success last year. We are trying to find our identity right now. We are here under different circumstances."
However, Battier does admit that it's a little sweeter starting a season against the team that they knocked off last season.
"We opened up in Utah last year," Battier said of last season. "We had played in Utah the last two years in the playoffs, and had met defeat. We had them early and if felt like gosh, we are always in Utah. So it's kind of strange to be back in Portland with good memories, so it's a little bit different."