Heat forward Shane Battier, one of the NBA's best defenders for the last several years, was asked about his approach to guarding a player like Kevin Durant.
“You start out Sunday morning in church,” he said with a laugh. “Say three Hail Marys. I've got some Buddha beads. You pray to all the gods.
“He's a tough cover. He's a guy who I have the ultimate respect for. Outside of my own team, I think he's the best player in this league. He's hungry. He's relentless.”
Battier later said Durant is “up there” in the rankings of best players he's defending in his career.
“I've seen his growth from his rookie year, and obviously his talent is unparalleled,” Battier said. “But now he's starting to understand the game. Not just scoring baskets, but how to be a basketball player. When supremely athletic and talented guys figure that out, that's when it's game over.”
MIAMI LINEUP UNDECIDED
At Monday's Media Day, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wouldn't reveal his starting lineup for Tuesday's opener.
“I'll give you the lineup tomorrow night,” Spoelstra said.
And unlike the Thunder, with its solidified starting five, Miami's tipoff crew is constantly shifting.
During the Eastern Conference Finals, Spoelstra used three different starting lineups. All-Star forward Chris Bosh, who is coming off an abdomen injury, wasn't involved in any of them.
But with Bosh back healthy, delivering 19 points in the Heat's closeout win, many believe he will rotate back to a starting role. Spoelstra said that change is not a given.
“I'll consider everything by tomorrow night,” Spoelstra said. “I think he can handle more minutes. We'll have to see. He was able to handle those 31 minutes.”
BATTIER ALMOST JOINED THUNDER
Before the 2011-12 season began, Battier was a free agent and the Thunder was among his suitors.
“It was strong,” Battier said of the mutual interest. “I really wanted a three-year deal, and because of their commitments they have coming up in a very short time period, they were not able to commit to that.
“That really was a deal breaker. I didn't want to go somewhere where I played half a season, and then I'm getting ready for free agency again and moving my family across the country. Miami was the only team that offered me a three-year deal.”
BATTIER MAKES PSA FOR BOOKS
Battier was asked about LeBron James' new pregame ritual: reading books.
“The demise of publishing and books is greatly exaggerated and it's good to know that LeBron is at the forefront of that charge,” Battier said. “It's good for everyone to pick up a book in this age of Twitter and Facebook. ... At the end of the day, there's no better entertainment.”
Battier then looked into a television camera.
“That's my PSA for today: Kids, LeBron is reading books, you should read books as well,” he said.
SPOELSTRA SAYS HEAT PUT LAST SEASON BEHIND IT
Spoelstra was asked what his team learned from last year's NBA Finals, when it lost to the Dallas Mavericks.
“We went through a lot of lessons last year, and experience can be probably the most powerful teacher,” Spoelstra said. “But we've put that behind us.”
He stressed the lessons the Heat has learned as this season has progressed.
“We continued to reinvent ourselves,” he said. “This is a different journey. We've built up some character and toughness. We've been tested really in all three rounds.”
LEBRON REFLECTS ON LAST YEAR
This year's NBA Finals are the third of James' career, and he has yet to win one. He was asked Monday to reflect on last season.
“I didn't play well,” he said. “I think I've said that 100 times this year.
“I didn't make enough game-changing plays that I know I'm capable of making, and I felt like I let my teammates down.
“I'm happy, and I'm humbled that I can actually be back in this position less than 12 months later to do a better job of making more plays, more game-changing plays out on the floor on a bigger stage. So we'll see what happens.”
HASLEM ON DURANT VS. JAMES
Heat forward Udonis Haslem said the matchup between Durant and James is “huge,” but that other players can't focus too much on it.
“These are right now the top two guys in the game, so it's going to be a huge matchup,” Haslem said. “The other guys can't find themselves watching. We've got to get involved; we've got to help those guys out.
“But I'm sure there are going to be points in the game where all eyes are going to be on those two guys, and I'm sure it's going to be a heck of a matchup.”