One week ago, Kyle Lowry bowled his way towards the basket for a layup. In the process of things, and in the scrum for the loose ball after the miss, Lowry rolled right into the legs of Shane Battier... and promptly "sprained" Shane's MCL. Shortly thereafter, the Rockets announced that he was out at least 10 days.
Battier then took to facebook earlier this week after consulting with his doctors. The prognosis quickly changed to "it may take 4 weeks to heal. Bummer." ('Bummer' being Shane's word of choice, but I've been prone to saying exactly the same thing in situations like that.)
Now, the Rockets have exactly 10 games left to play. They stand at 36-36 as of this writing. Putting them 7.5 games out of the 8th spot in the Western Conference playoff race. Now, that doesn't make them mathematically eliminated, but I do not fear a "Dewey defeats Truman"-level comeback here, so I'm gonna go ahead and call the Rockets' chances of making the playoffs a precise 0.0%. The good guys are lottery bound.
Given that Battier joins a walking wounded list of Yao Ming, Jared Jeffries and Kevin Martin... not to mention whatever is ailing Trevor Ariza, Kyle Lowry and Jordan Hill these days... do we really bother putting Shane Battier back into the active rotation this season? Other than making a bunch of fans happy, would it really benefit the Rockets to make Shane suit up again?
(I'm not talking about karaoke, Battier had better suit up for karaoke a couple times this summer!)
There's no need for Shane to prove his worth or his toughness. Everyone knows he is a gamer and a professional in every sense of the word. And he's the only Duke player other than Grant Hill I can tolerate. So there shoudn't be a personal need for Battier to play, either.
Which means Shane is almost certainly "done for the season"... but what about next year?
For the 2010/2011 season, Shane Battier is to cost the Rockets a cool $7.35M. But it will be the last year of his contract... he's a free agent as of July 2011. Moreover, Shane will be 33 years old before the start of the 2011/2012 season. He's not exactly a spring chicken anymore. Given that Shane's career is built on hustle and defense and being in the right place at the right time, the simple process of "losing a step" will massively detract from his on-court value. I hate to say it, but it's true.
The Rockets already have a "Battier clone" of sorts in the form of Trevor Ariza. And Trevor is getting paid a healthy $6.7M next season already. With the Rockets bringing Yao back and having already publiclly stated a desire to re-sign both Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry as restricted free agents this summer...
Is this the year that the Rockets trade Shane Battier?
Both Shane and Jared Jeffries will go into next season with expiring contracts. Shane, however, still holds more value for his on-court ability. Or did we already forget the "No-Stats All Star" column? I am sure Daryl Morey is like 12 steps ahead of me here, but wouldn't this be the best time for the Rockets to sell-high on Battier? Or do they keep him around for one more year to make a Championship run with Yao, ABZ, Speed Racer and Scola? I guess it depends on what the summer trade market offers us. Once the Rockets traded Carl Landry, we all realized that Morey is the anti-Purpura -- he will trade away players he drafted/groomed. Our resident boy genius may not like it, but in the end he'll do what is best for the team. It's all about winning. Which I think we can all appreciate.
All this is just a long-winded way of me asking:
Has Shane Battier already played his last game as a Houston Rocket?