Battier predicts female NBA player

Miami Heat forward Shane Battier, who has played several pickup basketball games with women over the years, predicts that the NBA is not far away from having its first female player.

"There's no doubt that in our lifetime, there will be a woman NBA player," Battier told ESPN.com after Thursday's Heat practice at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said Tuesday night that he would consider drafting Brittney Griner, the 6-foot-8 senior star for Baylor who just wrapped up her college career over the weekend.

In terms of the first woman to play in the NBA, is Griner the one?

"I don't know if it's Griner or if it's someone who is 5 years old right now," Battier said. "But we'll see it. It'll happen in our lifetime. Just the law of averages."

When asked what type of player that breakthrough athlete might be, Battier said it likely would be a quick, athletic female guard rather than a taller player such as Griner.

Battier pointed to his own teammate, LeBron James, as a comparison of combined athleticism and strength.

"I don't think it would be out of the realm of possibility that [one day] we'll see a female LeBron," Battier said. "You could be the most skilled player in the world that the women's game has ever seen, but that won't cut it in the NBA. She'd have to be a physical specimen."

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle wasn't willing to weigh in on the issue when asked about Cuban's comments.

"I haven't watched a single [Baylor] game all year," Carlisle said Thursday. "I know she's a hell of a player. Beyond that, I don't want to get into the polarizing discussion about it.

"I think it's important to have an owner who is open-minded and I think it's important that the organization is open-minded. But ultimately, whether or not she can play is something I don't want to get into."

Mavs star forward Dirk Nowitzki doubted whether the 6-foot-8 Griner would be able to guard NBA players of similar height.

"It's tough. You've got to be fast and athletic at that spot," Nowitzki said. "You've got to be able to shoot. You've got to be able to go by people, guard people on the other end, chase people off of screen-and-rolls and post up."

Battier, an 11-year NBA veteran, has traditionally defended guards or small forwards. But he has been assigned to defend several bruising power forwards this season in the versatile Miami lineups.

"Strength is the biggest issue that player would have, especially with those post players," Battier said. "Post play is just so physical.

"Look, I'm 6-foot-8, 220 pounds and I guard [Indiana Pacers power forward] David West and [Chicago Bulls power forward] Carlos Boozer. I lift weights twice a week and I think I'm strong as a 34-year-old man. And I struggle with those guys."

Battier recalls playing with fellow Duke alum and current Los Angeles Sparks star Alana Beard, who set a school record at Duke with 2,687 points over her career, while they went to school together. Battier graduated from Duke in 2001 after his senior year, which was Beard's freshman season.

"She could play," Battier said. "She could handle the ball. In a pickup game scenario, she didn't stick out any worse than any of the other guys we were playing with."

When asked whether a Griner NBA tryout would have a positive effect for women's sports or whether it would be seen merely as an attention-grabbing sideshow, Battier laughed.

"Listen, this whole thing is a sideshow," Battier said of the NBA. "What's one more trailer?"

ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.

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