MIAMI – Shane Battier had no idea what to expect.
He'd been out of the Miami Heat lineup for the better part of two months, then back in his starting role for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Brooklyn Nets. It was only the biggest game to date in Miami's season. And the veteran acknowledged being more than a little bit nervous.
"It's sort of like having a classic car," Battier said. "I'm more like a Chevette, an old Chevette. If you don't start it up for a while, you're praying when you turn the ignition that it just turns on. That was my initial thought. But once the car started up and it was purring 'OK, I said I can drive this thing around a little bit.'"
Battier's first shot was a 3-pointer, he drilled it, and before long the Heat were in the drivers' seat. They'll try to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven on Thursday night, when Battier is again expected to be back in the lineup in large part to make life as uncomfortable for Nets guard Joe Johnson as possible.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told Battier on Monday that he was back in the rotation, yet another reminder that on a team with as much depth and as many differing weapons as Miami, anyone's number can get called at any given time. Battier played two minutes — total — in Miami's four-game sweep of Charlotte in the opening round. But this matchup dictates that the Heat need certain things defensively, so much in the same way that Spoelstra has summoned James Jones, Udonis Haslem and Rashard Lewis almost without warning in recent months, this was Battier's turn.
This is where the mantra of sacrifice the Heat always speak of comes into play. It's not just about salary. It's also about minutes. Battier believes that approach wouldn't work with a lot of teams, but knows why it does in Miami.
"Because we're old and we like championships," Battier said. "Honestly, that's the only way it works — because we're old and we like championships. You can't have a roster of guys who are under 25 in this spot. Pulled and prodded, told you're good enough for one series and not good enough for another. Young guys can't handle it."
It's not easy for the Heat, either. Plenty of guys in that locker room could get bigger minutes, maybe even starting roles, on other teams.
Then again, none of those other teams won NBA titles in 2012 and 2013. Therein lies the tradeoff, and Battier knew that would be the deal when he famously quoted Jimmy Buffett in a series of tweets to announce that he was signing a three-year contract — the last of his playing career — with Miami before the 2011-12 season began.
"You've got to have the right guys," Spoelstra said. "He's the best. He's the best."
The meeting to tell Battier of the move on Monday was brief. Battier said he was in Spoelstra's office, got the marching orders and that was basically that.
"It wasn't anything dramatic," Spoelstra said. "I told him what his task was, the change we were making, and here's the things that we need. There's no Knute Rockne speeches about it. We're way past all of this stuff."
Battier, easily one of the league's most quotable players, said he left that meeting looking forward. Or, more accurately, skyward.
"Consult the stars, the astrological charts, see where Neptune is in Pluto and change my game plan accordingly," Battier said. "That's as good as anything else I've got."
In actuality, he went to resume studying Johnson. That's right, resume studying. As soon as Brooklyn beat Toronto in Game 7 of their first-round series, Battier anticipated the move was coming, and started prepping just in case.
A day later, his hunch was proved correct.
"Rest, schmest," Battier said. "I've got the rest of my life to rest. At this point, it's about throwing myself into the fire, into the mix and going after it. That's all I can do."