Always ready: DeJuan Blair

by

AT&T CENTER–The minutes come sparingly now, more so than at any other point in DeJuan Blair’s brief NBA career. The muscle memory and instincts, however, remain second nature.

With the final seconds of the first quarter quickly winding down and teammate Manu Ginobili streaking across the lane, Blair found and settled into the opening  passing lane as he has so many times before, making himself available for a last second layup.

The timing and choreography of the play were impeccably in sync, no small miracle given how little Blair and Ginobili have seen the court this season–Ginobili due to injuries, and Blair due to a freefall in the Spurs increasingly deep rotation.

With 14 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists in his first significant playing time of the season the message was clear, DeJuan Blair remains ready.

“DeJuan’s been very professional,” San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “I haven’t played him very much at all and he’s stayed in shape, he’s ready to go, he’s part of the team.”

How long Blair remains part of the team remains a mystery, given his upcoming free agency and place in the rotation. A contract year for Blair, he showed up in training camp in the best shape of his life only to face the fewest minutes.

The San Antonio Spurs roster goes 12 legitimate NBA rotation-quality players deep. Their 13th player is a French import with big game experience in Europe.

As Blair walked off the court in the first quarter he was flanked by an Argentinean basketball God turned sixth man and a veteran NBA gunslinger on his second tour of duty with the Spurs–both of whom are sacrificing shots and minutes to fit into Popovich’s grand design.

The first person to greet them, enthusiastically as always, was Patty Mills; an Olympic basketball hero in his native Australia whose developing talents remain restrained to mop up duty and the occasional emergency fill-in.

“With Manu and Stephen Jackson coming off the bench, those guys could be starting on any team in the NBA,” backup point guard Gary Neal said. “It’s unique here because you might play five minutes one night and 20 the next, so you have to be professional about your job and always prepared because you never know when coach Pop is going to call on you.”

Against the Pacers, Blair, Neal, and Jackson each scored in double digits as the Spurs’ bench outscored the Pacers’ bench 57-35.

Many teams would love to boast the type of depth the Spurs exhibit on a nightly basis, few could successfully handle it.

Despite his limitations, Blair is a proven talent in the NBA. The 14 points and 11 rebounds are hardly an outlier, and it’s not a stretch to imagine him earning a nice living putting up similar numbers on another team.

Given Blair’s talents, contract status, and place in the rotation, the obvious post game interviews sought to praise Blair’s preparedness and question any possible frustrations.

After all, this is the league in which superstar players on max deals with unlimited playing time and touches feel justified in rising up against their franchise.

Yet, when asked if they were surprised by Blair’s response, each member of the Spurs organization looked perplexed. Of course Blair was ready, they would say, it’s his job. So while Blair’s future might be uncertain, expectations never are. He will remain professional, and both parties will be better off for it .

  • Titletown99030507d

    Trade him while he looks valuable.

  • Graham

    So…… Any point in the past 2 and some change years? Or the rest of this one? Blair’s always going to have value. That said i dont see us getting a defensive big back for him that’s worth what we’d have to package to get them. Would the Cavs realistically give up a Varejao for any combo of our non-duncan bigs and 2nd unit guards?

    Blair is great for these trenchfight games against power (but not athletic) bigs that cant shoot from outside. Savvy use of him by Pop here.

  • http://twitter.com/slapdoghoops Jeffrey Thompson

    can’t believe that they’re starting Diaw over Blair. Diaw is an overweight, over the hill BUM.

  • Graham

    Gonna have to respectfully disagree there.

  • Tyler

    In no situation whatsoever should Blair start over Diaw.

  • Len

    That’s a joke. Diaw and Timmy are on the backsides of their career. The Spurs would be wise to find a way to keep Blair after this season. Can’t have too much muscle especially ones with corporate knowledge.

  • NMloyalspursfan

    Great call by coach pop using blair! Duncan is # 1, diaw # 2, splitter and blair can fight for pecking order 3-4 and bonner should be used situational and when needed 5th big. I believe coach pop will find a way for this to work out or a trade will happen, its not like the spurs are 0-4, getting better throughout the season is priority #1 for this team as well as remaing healthy. I trust coach pop’s judgement, our bigs are good, but bringing out the inner competitor is what might get the GOAT a 5th. GO SPURS GO!

  • Bob

    Coaches always say the same thing about being professional and being ready to go at a moments notice. That’s good and all but alot of players play their best when they receive consistent minutes and giving them inconsistent minutes and roles is detrimental. It’s just laziness on the part of a coach. You should be able to figure out a rotation when everyone is healthy. The only times you should really need to change your rotation is with injuries or foul trouble.

  • Graham

    Unless the team has a proper mindset, where the role players know they can contribute, and that their minutes will come when the time comes. Having an embarrassment of riches in a deep bench is not lazy coaching, it’s superb player scouting and development.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Amen!

  • Titletown99030507d

    Or a waste.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Playing Blair all those minutes like Sean said lit a fire in Tiago. No complaining on his part he just went out played his 5 lousy minutes but got 5 points and 4 rebounds. Not to mention the power move under the basket off the power rebound late in the game. Where the hell has that been? GSG!

  • MG20TD21

    Diaw enjoys the more indulgent parts of life, he is the croissant to Tonys baguette. He has played great defense this year, fits into pops system well, passes as well as any big in the lane, and is a pretty good shot. I love DB, but Diaw is better in our system.

  • Goea

    if you have noticed, Diaw has trimmed down, compared to his days as a Bobcat