Shane Battier returning to American Century lineup | SierraSun.com

Shane Battier returning to American Century lineup

Anthony Gentile
agentile@tahoedailytribune.com

A basketball player has never finished atop the leaderboard at the American Century Championship. And that's a trend two-time NBA champion Shane Battier would like to see change.

"The basketball players have not represented like the hockey players, football players and the actors — but I like to think that our time is coming," Battier said.

Battier is one of six basketball players that has accepted an invitation to the 26th-annual tournament next month at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

At 1,000-to-1 odds, its unlikely he will win the whole thing, so he instead pointed to pair of his colleagues as contenders — ex-Miami Heat teammate Ray Allen and reigning league MVP Stephen Curry of the world champion Golden State Warriors.

“Now that I’m retired, I’m trying to get my game tight.”Shane BattierTwo-time NBA champion, on his golf game

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"Both those guys have a legitimate shot of representing the basketball players and bringing it home — those are my guys," said the 13-year NBA veteran.

Battier was part a media call last week along with former NBA player and head coach Vinny Del Negro — the call also included Sgt. Major Rod Gorman, who earned an ACC invite by winning the Warrior Open last fall.

Battier will play in the tournament for the first time in two years — in 2013, he shot a Modified Stableford score of minus-39.

"Now that I'm retired, I'm trying to get my game tight," Battier said. "I've had a little more time to work on it and I'm excited."

Battier said the camaraderie between fans and players at the tournament is his favorite part of coming to Lake Tahoe. He'll be making a sixth ACC appearance this summer.

"This is the highlight of my summer every year," Battier said. "It's the closest thing to a locker room that all the ex-players have — when you go into the players meeting, everyone is busting each other's chops and it reminds me of my playing days."

On the course, Battier will again have extra incentive while playing to benefit The Battier Take Charge Foundation. Through Take Charge Save Par, he will take pledges for every par and birdie he makes during the three rounds at Edgewood Tahoe.

Battier's Foundation provides college scholarships to at-risk youths in South Florida, Houston and Detroit — and currently supports 16 students. He has already raised a total of $150,000 at the ACC, and plans to add to that figure while aiming for at least 20 holes at or under par in 2015.

"We are changing lives through the power of a college education, which is something I feel very strongly about," said Battier, who was Naismith College Player of the Year during his senior season at Duke. "That's going to be the motivator to play well at the American Century Championship."

Between rounds, Battier said he is looking forward to karaoke at Harrah's with resident deejay Arty the Party. He plans to get on stage for at least one song, and mentioned Ray Allen, NBA hall of famer Charles Barkley, NFL hall of famer Marcus Allen and actor Alfonso Ribeiro as the field's more talented crooners.

"It's the most organic moment of the weekend, and I plan on taking part again this year," Battier said. "Whatever Arty starts playing, that's what you sing — you don't go in there with any preconceived notions, it's all fun and you let the spirit wash over you."

Del Negro will be making his 15th tournament appearance, and is listed at 50 to 1. Work as an NBA analyst during the playoffs for ESPN, NBA TV and Sirius XM radio has kept him off the course recently — though he did play at Marshall Faulk's Celebrity Championship in San Diego last month.

"My wife Lynn and I just love coming to Tahoe and enjoying the week — trying to play good golf and not take it too seriously because we're all competitive," Del Negro said. "There are a lot of positive things that happen, a lot of great people up there and I just love coming back year after year and enjoying it."

Now two seasons removed from a head coaching stint with the Los Angeles Clippers, Del Negro recently pursued the New Orleans Hornets' opening. Though the league's five coaching vacancies following the 2014-15 season have all been filled, Del Negro indicated he'd eventually like to return to an NBA sideline.

"I want to get back into coaching, but it has to be the right situation — not every job is for you," Del Negro said.

Battier and Del Negro each weighed in on the NBA Finals on the eve of Game 6, which Golden State won in Cleveland to deliver their first championship in 40 years.

Battier said the fluidity of both teams' lineups and strategy made this year's finals amongst the most unique in recent memory.

"This has been a really fun series if you like unconventional basketball — you have two coaches that are trying to think outside the box and trying to find their advantage where they can find it," Battier said.

In addition, both NBA veterans agreed that Golden State's lack of a true center and style of play throughout its championship season could spark a new era in professional basketball.

In the case of the Warriors, Battier wouldn't mind more teams adopting their approach.

"Golden State has guys that are not afraid of the moment, not afraid to make mistakes or make a play — that's basketball at its best, when you have high-level athletes making plays and don't something the rest of us can't," Battier said. "It's an exciting time for basketball and I'm excited to see how this innovation takes shape."