Shane Battier screwed up, didn't he?
|Battier is the most accomplished player in the draft, but he's likely not going No. 1.|
Went to Duke four years, made solid grades, gained high confidence and self-esteem, won a national championship.
Battier is going to be 23 a month before his first NBA training camp. What was this guy thinking?
When Battier says he enjoyed his college experience, you know the guy doesn't understand the system.
You want to be a high pick in the NBA draft you simply can't be more than 20 years old.
You want to sign a $6- to $8-million lottery deal, they don't want you old enough to shave. Read and write? Optional. But you don't want to have a college degree, be so smart you can't relate to your teammates.
Battier waited until he reached a full 6-8 1/4, 220 pounds, developed a well-muscled physique, learned to shoot, learned the game. He read where the commissioner of the NBA said to stay in school. Saw the PSA's by NBA players and believed them. Hey, Shane, the guys who say to stay in school mostly didn't.
He won the Naismith and Wooden awards, the best a college player can do. He was consensus national player of the year, a unanimous All-American, outstanding player in the NCAA Final Four, coaches' defensive player of the year three times. Battier is one of four college players to compile more than 1,500 points (1,984), 500 rebounds (887), 200 steals (266) and 200 assists (239).
Uh, Shane, baby, this is information overload. The guys who draft in the NBA didn't need to know all this. They don't like you for your accomplishments, Shane. They only like you if they don't know what you can do.
Here's the deal: Kwame Brown, Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler and DeSagana Diop, big high school kids who made their reputations against little high school kids, are going to be taken in the lottery.
At least two of them, Brown and Chandler, are expected to go one-two. And while Brown is almost 20 and showed some skills and strength in pre-draft workouts, Chandler struggles to bench press more weight than his own 220 pounds. Curry is 300 pounds of baby fat and Diop is only 18 years, 5 months old with a screw in his foot.
The scouts don't know how good they can be.
They don't know how bad they will be.
All they know is potential. All they know is what they don't know.
What does that say about the system? What does that say about Shane Battier?
"I think it's the thing about looking at somebody so long that after a while you only see the warts," Lon Babby said, a little frustrated by the process. Babby is Battier's agent. "That's all I can come up with me."
Battier should have come out after his freshman year at Duke when he averaged 7.6 ppg., didn't have a long range jump shot anybody knew about, when people didn't know if he could play tough defense and didn't have enough information to decide that he wasn't going to beat people off the dribble in the NBA or that, as some anonymous scout said in a national magazine, that Battier does not run the floor hard. That piece of inside information appeared under a photo of Battier driving for a loose ball. You decide if he plays hard.
While Elton Brand left Duke after his sophomore year and became the top pick in 1999 when unaccomplished youngsters Corey Maggette and William Avery followed him at No. 13 and 14, Battier stayed in school, honed his game, built a reputation, averaged 9.1 points as a sophomore, 17.4 as a junior, 19.9 as a senior.
Draft expert Brad Greenberg wrote, "Battier will be able to step right in and help any team. While some young players intrigue scouts with their potential, Battier is a lock to realize his. He is a winning player and someone who will enhance any franchise's value, on and off the court."
At one time personnel chief in Portland, later GM in Philadelphia, you think Greenberg would feel this way if still employed by an NBA team? Of course not. He would be worrying that Battier is not a great one-on-one defender at the dawn of the Zone Defense Era in the NBA.
Mike Krzyzewski, Battier's college coach, said, "All of us benefited from being on Shane's team" and called Battier "the most complete player I have ever had."
Of course, Krzyzewski isn't an NBA insider. Once, a few years ago, he scolded a Duke team, saying it "played NBA defense."
Besides, they don't develop great NBA players at Duke. Look at Bob Hurley, Christian Laettner, Roshown McLeod, Cherokee Parks, Art Heyman, Grant Hill... Okay, forget Grant Hill.
But that's a knock on Battier, isn't it?
New Wizards coach Doug Collins wants to draft Battier, but what does he know. Collins was the last coach who failed to win a championship with Michael Jordan in the lineup. And it's Jordan who won't let him make the pick.
Lon Kruger, the ex-Florida and Illinois coach now laboring in Atlanta, knows something about college players and something about Battier. Kruger loves his work ethic and his intelligence. Back in March, Kruger was talking about what a nice fit Battier would be for a team like his. Now, of course, there are six high school kids in the draft and a lot of college freshmen, including Rodney White, whose broad education experience includes no fewer than five high schools.
Now Kruger, like other newly-hired coaches in the league who are trying to turn around bad teams, must deal with that frightening word potential that has made so many high school kids so attractive.
So Battier is hanging. He won't go No. 1 and he can't be a Clipper. No way, a four-year college guy could ever be drafted by the Clippers. That leaves the Hawks at No. 3, or...
Shane Battier made his mistake. Now, he has to live with it. They won't take back the degree.
Jeffrey Denberg, who covers the NBA for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
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