THE HEEL OF a high-top basketball shoe, when attached to the foot of a large man and applied with force, can mimic a sledgehammer. Shane Battier's big toes, at a rate far exceeding expected odds, have found themselves on the receiving end of those pneumatic heels. Right big toe smashed one week, left big toe smashed the next. Barring the invention of steel-toed basketball shoes, the jackhammering of heel into toe in post-up situations will remain a little-known NBA occupational hazard.
Battier is an 11-year veteran in his first season with the Heat. The 6-foot-8 forward is in the throes of a post-lockout, 66-game compressed schedule, and chronic toe misery is the last thing he needs. Toenail regeneration, for the uninitiated, is both unsightly and lengthy. At the risk of taking you too far down a road you didn't choose: Trauma kills the nail, which gradually decays and blackens over the course of three weeks before falling off entirely. Then a new nail, growing at a rate of around 0.033 of a millimeter per day, eventually fills the raw and exposed nail bed. Which means, in the only terms pertinent to a basketball player, that each hammered toe is at least a five- to six-month nuisance.