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Winderman: Battier a big loss for Rockets in playoff race

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 20: Shane Battier #31 of the Houston Rockets in action against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on December 20, 2010 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Shane Battier

Ezra Shaw

The reasoning might have been right, but perhaps the target was wrong.

Few approaches at the NBA trading deadline are considered as egregious as trading away your team’s chances at a playoff berth.

So when Michael Jordan traded away (although “gave away” would be closer to the truth) Gerald Wallace to the Trail Blazers at the deadline, it came off as little more than continuing the Bob Johnson penny-pinching approach with the Bobcats.

Yet there stands Charlotte, a mere game out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. While the Pacers certainly have been accommodating, perhaps Jordan knew more than we suspected.

By contrast, when it comes to front-office intelligence, we’ve long assumed that Daryl Morey was smarter than the rest of us.

Now? Not so sure.

When the Heat was scoring at record paces with all their 30-point performances Sunday night against the Rockets, one couldn’t help but wonder: What would Battier do?

As it turns out, that was the deadline deal that proved most confounding.

In trading Shane Battier, Houston not only surrendered the type of defensive presence that at least might have slowed LeBron James or Dwyane Wade during their breakout performances Sunday, but they also dealt Battier to their prime competition for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies.

So, to reset:

Without Battier’s defensive presence, the Rockets lost 125-119 to the Heat on Sunday night.

With Battier’s contribution, the Grizzlies defeated the Spurs 111-104 Sunday.

The upshot is a 2 1/2-game Memphis lead over Houston for the final playoff spot in the West.

As for what the Rockets got in return for Battier? That would be Hasheem Thabeet, who currently can be found in the D-League.

Somehow, we never quite viewed the NBA trading deadline as a vehicle to improve the playoff prospects of the Rio Grande Vipers (although Thabeet did have a solid two-point performance in a Sunday loss to the Texas Legends, dominated by former Nets center Sean Williams).

It would be one thing if the Rockets moved Battier to the opposite conference, as the Bobcats did with Wallace.

But the deal with the Grizzlies was one that hardly put Battier out of sight, out of mind.

Instead, he stands front and center as a face who could decide the final playoff berth in the West.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.