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Veteran Battier, rookie Cole key complementary pieces for Heat

by | Special to CBSSports.com

LeBron James is happy to have Norris Cole, who provides another scoring option. (US Presswire)  
LeBron James is happy to have Norris Cole, who provides another scoring option. (US Presswire)  

MIAMI -- Think of them as the New Two.

Think of them -- NBA veteran Shane Battier and rookie Norris Cole -- as the latest meaningful ingredients mixed into the grand and on-going experiment that is the Miami Heat.

Everybody knows about the Big Three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh and the unholy alliance they formed in a failed attempt to win a title last season in their first year together. They fell two wins short against Dallas in the NBA Finals, which is either a chasm or a crack removed from ultimate success. It depends on whose point of view, and frequently not even the Heat themselves can seem to decide where they stand on the matter.

Subsequently, the Heat decided Battier was worth signing as a free agent and Cole was worth acquiring through draft machinations (Chicago to Minnesota to Miami), so here they are. Cole, coming off the bench to share duties at point guard, has been a more consistent contributor than the polished Battier has been as a defender and three-point shooting forward to this juncture, but if the Trinity remains a South Florida work in progress -- and it does -- then so does everything else about the Heat.

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Hey, it's a wild ride in these parts, though perhaps not as wild as outsiders might imagine if Battier is to be believed.

"The perception was that it was a chaotic, melodramatic soap opera every day," Battier said of his own evaluation of the Heat from a distance.

And now?

"It isn't," Battier said. "It's as crazy and dysfunctional as every team I've been on, and I mean that in a good way."

OK, here's the thing: It actually was a chaotic, melodramatic soap opera last season from the time the Heat circled the wagons during preseason camp at Eglin Air Force Base until the Mavericks took them down.

OK, here's another thing: It'll get that way again come playoff time, because, well, no less an authority than Wade already has labeled this a "championship or bust" season.

So, welcome to the pressure, Mr. Battier and Mr. Cole.

Battier, at least, has a long history in the league upon which he can draw; Cole was playing at Cleveland State in the Horizon League last winter.

Asked if he was too young to know enough to be bothered by the scene he's a part of, Cole replied, "I don't really know what that means."

What it means is that he is, indeed, too young to know enough to be bothered by the scene he's a part of.

"I believe in myself, and the team has confidence in me," Cole said. "I'm learning on the fly. I'm doing what I'm supposed to do."

But with the Heat? C'mon, really?

If someone had told Cole a year ago that he'd be doing what he's doing today and doing it where he's doing it, he wouldn't have blinked in dreamy disbelief?

"My goal was to make it," he said before a smiling admission, "but on this team ... I don't know."

Cole and starter Mario Chalmers have combined to make the Heat more than serviceable at what has been a position of concern while Battier seems to be getting more comfortable in a role head coach Erik Spoelstra calls "a glue guy."

Spoelstra's point is that Cole has given the team "a kick" and Battier fills in some gaps.

"Both guys really complement the core we brought back," Spoelstra said. "Shane knows how to fit in; Norris has forced us to fit him in."

It's an interesting study with the experienced Battier feeling his way around, and the brash, but not arrogant, Cole charging ahead.

"In terms of schematics, I'm picking up things pretty quickly, but I don't know the individual tendencies of my teammates yet," Battier said. "There are some special talents here who can do things I'm not used to."

And then there's Cole, who said, "If you don't squeeze the trigger, you'll never know if the hard work has paid off."

The integration process continues for Battier and Cole, and, to some extent, for holdovers Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller, who missed much of last season with injuries during the Big Three circus.

There's time for patience, for now.

"We're not click-clicking, but we'll be better in a month," Wade said.

But will they be the best a few months after that?


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