Friday, December 23, 2011
Updated: December 24, 11:11 AM ET
Shane Battier uncertain for opener
By Michael Wallace
MIAMI -- The Miami Heat have ruled out injured center Eddy Curry for Sunday's season opener and will make a game-time decision on forward Shane Battier's status against the Dallas Mavericks.
Curry and Battier continue to recover from injuries that have kept them out of all but a handful of practices since training camp opened Dec. 9. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Friday that Battier went through about 45 minutes of on-court work Thursday and another conditioning session Friday. But Spoelstra also said he wants to see how the 10-year veteran responds to Saturday's workout before making a decision on his availability in Dallas.
Battier has been slowed by a strained muscle in his left thigh, an injury that kept him out of the Heat's intrasquad scrimmage and both preseason games against the Orlando Magic. After Friday's practice, Battier said he still hasn't tested the leg extensively enough to gauge if he's ready to play in a game.
"How about a strong maybe?" Battier responded when asked about his status for Sunday's game. "I'm going to try to practice tomorrow and see how it goes. It's progressing well. But with an injury like this, you don't really know where you are until you're in the heat of battle and you have to react and change directions, cut hard and stop hard. You can't simulate that in shooting drills on the side."
Battier was signed as a free agent to bolster the Heat's depth and versatility behind catalysts LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But if he's unable to play Sunday, the Heat will be critically short on experienced and reliable reserves because of injuries.
Curry is still working his way back from a strained hip flexor he sustained in the second practice of training camp two weeks ago. The fact that Spoelstra said Curry is gradually working his way into condition and more on-court work with the team means the No. 4 overall pick from the 2001 draft is essentially a lock to make the Heat's 15-man regular season roster after signing a one-year, non-guaranteed contract at the start of camp.
But the Heat will also be without forward Mike Miller and guard Eddie House, who continue to rehab from hernia and knee surgeries, respectively. Backup center Dexter Pittman is recovering from a strained leg muscle that kept him out of Wednesday's preseason finale against Orlando.
"We are making progress with the guys on the sideline," Spoelstra said.
The injuries could affect the Heat's decision-making process with their final roster spots. Team president Pat Riley said last week that he would like to limit the roster to 13 players and keep the final two available spots open to maintain flexibility in the event of a trade or more free-agent signings.
But Spoelstra said Friday there's a possibility that the team could enter Sunday at the roster limit of 15 out of necessity, increasing the chances that a training camp hopeful or two among the likes of Terrel Harris, Derrick Byars or Mickell Gladness might earn one of the final spots.
"We're going to wait as long as we can," Spoelstra said of delaying a decision on the roster until Saturday's league-wide deadline. "The beauty of this training camp is that they're making us have to make some tough decisions. You always hope for that in camp. There have been some surprises."
Michael Wallace is an NBA writer for ESPN.com.