Heat forward Shane Battier, who is considered one of the NBA's best defenders over the past decade, played for the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets before joining Miami before this season.
He played college basketball at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski and is playing in the first NBA Finals of his career.
Q: How do you approach guarding Kevin Durant?
A: “You start out Sunday morning in church. 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 the league. He's hungry. He's relentless.”
Where does he rank among all the great players you've covered in your career?
“He's up there. I've seen his growth from his rookie year, and obviously his talent is unparalleled. 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.”
What have you learned about LeBron James this year that you didn't know before?
“He's a lot more human than I think his marketing presence suggests. He's really the first star of the information/digital age. Everything he does is documented and analyzed and second-guessed. I think it dehumanizes him in a lot of regards. When I got here, he's a lot more normal and down to earth than I think most people would ever think.
“You guys don't get to see him like we get to see him in the locker room and on team planes and buses.
“He doesn't drink beer, but if he did, he's the type of guy you'd like to have a beer with. I like beer, so I'll drink for him.”
Is there a similarity between playing for Duke and the Miami Heat, both teams people love to hate?
“It's very similar. I go back to the thing that Coach K always told us: ‘When you're evoking emotion, whether it's hatred, love, whatever, you're doing something.' You have to worry when people are apathetic about you and your teams. You're probably on your way out. So I'd much rather be in a position where people care about what I do, whether it's good or bad.”
Can you characterize the interest you had in joining the Thunder before this season, and their interest in you?
“It was strong, but it didn't work out logistically. 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.”
What's it feel like to be in your first NBA Finals?
“It's surreal. I was explaining to my family and friends, I was wandering around through the NBA wilderness for about a decade, and the Finals becomes this esoteric, almost mystical place that you never know if you're going to reach. ... Now that I'm here, it's a great feeling. Surprisingly, I'm excited, but I'm ready to play games. I'm ready to see what the next level feels like.”