DeJuan Blair finally doubles up

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AT&T CENTER — As the locker room opened after the Spurs’ 116-93 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, George Hill was determined to convince Manu Ginobili of the magical powers of Hill’s balance bracelet.

According to its website, the balance bracelet is “designed to work with your body’s natural energy field.” Additionally, it is “designed to resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body.”

I guess that means it makes your balance better too.

No matter the certainty that Hill showed, Manu wasn’t buying it.

“Have you heard of a placebo?” Manu asked.

Hill didn’t follow.

“It’s a Spanish word,” Richard Jefferson chimed in, jokingly.

Of a similar ilk, we were wowed by the preseason DeJuan Blair had last month. Blair looked primed for a breakout season during San Antonio’s exhibition schedule when he averaged 12.6 points and 8.7 points per game. All the talk entering the preseason slate was the work Blair did to extend his range.

But going into Saturday’s game against Philadelphia, Blair was averaging just five points and under seven rebounds per game. And the shooting? According to Hoopdata, Blair was 0 for 7 on shots 10-feet out and farther. Despite what we heard, the results weren’t there.

The jump shot didn’t change against the 76ers — Blair clanged both of his jumpers — but he did put up 13 points and 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.

“This was the first one of the year, but knowing me, I’m still getting adapted to playing the four with Tim,” Blair said. “Once me and [Duncan] get the groove of grabbing rebounds together, instead of one getting 10 and one getting four, it’s going to be amazing.”

For the first time this season, Blair and Duncan showed the big-man-to-big-man passing skills that inspired Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich in the preseason to proclaim that the two could play together, despite Blair’s limited range and inability to stretch the floor.

“We’re just going to keep playing and however the game goes, it goes,” Blair said. “I’m not worried about double-doubles, it’s just all about winning right now.”

With every other starter seemingly firing on all cylinders, even though Duncan hasn’t cracked double figures in scoring in either of the last two games, a boost from Blair makes the Spurs’ offense even more dangerous.

“I finally got my break and now I just have to keep going,” Blair said. “Through the ups and downs, I’m going to keep playing and try to win.”

  • No, Ginobili!

    For whatever reason, I’m not at all surprised that Hill buys into something like that. But I am really curious about why it isn’t surprising.

    Also, I would get HBO just to watch a show about Ginobili and Jefferson as detectives, with guest appearances from Timmy and Pop.

    Obviously, Jefferson would be sort’ve a bumbling sidekick.

  • Ryan

    Let’s hope Blair and company carries that over to tonight. I’m a little nervous to see if we can actually hang with the big dogs in the west, but I think that things are clicking at the right time. Go Spurs!

  • td4life

    “Blair was 0 for 7 on shots 10-feet out and farther. Despite what we heard, the results weren’t there.”

    I noticed that last night, he was scoring only when he played his natural game… and he was all smiles and having fun which just put even more nitro in his motor. he’s a real asset close to the basket.

    I’m all for developing the guy as a starter, but at some point soon I expect that we have to limit his shooting chances (and allow that part of his game to come along over the next few years, as it seems to be coming along VERY slowly), and go ahead a bring back the beast from last year for the majority of his time on the court…

    I’m just hoping we don’t need an unneccessary two-game losing streak to prompt such a move, but we probably will.

  • rj

    i see no problem in duncans lack of production, although it is for good reasons ( health, minutes). the less we depend on him in the regular season, the better we will be come playoff time

  • GMT

    Sean Elliott mentioned that although Blair’s work on his shot this past summer isn’t showing in his FG%, it pretty evident in his FT% (88.9%, 8-9). Although he’s only had 9 attempts, his form is completely different from last year, and I don’t think any “Hack-a-Blair” strategies will be ever used by opponents in his career’s future.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    @GMT

    Good point, Blair’s FTs are a whole lot better this season.

  • E. J.

    Manu Ginobili: Superstar athlete, and trilingual atheist who writes articles on ecotourism and understands the placebo effect. I couldn’t possibly love this guy more. In addition to being one of the most exciting basketball players alive, he’s a standout rationalist in a superstitious culture.

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  • Flavor

    Again, why is OKC considered a “top” team in the west? Why are we the underdogs. I don’t get the reason. Please someone, explain…

  • td4life

    Flavor,

    I don’t know if we are actually underdogs or not, but it is an away game and the second night of a back-to-back game. I wouldn’t call OKC a top team yet, but they are a playoff team. I’ve only watched them in their 2 portland wins, and Westbrook is much better than you remember him, so they can give us a lot more trouble. In a close game, they hit their FTs and now have 2 guys who can absolutely take a game over with no problem whatsoever.

    Our defense has been really poor. RJ will pretty much have to play every minute that KD is on the floor, and take it to him on both ends… quite a challenge. We should be able to get the win, if Timmy and Dice play well, and we lean on them tonight, but it will depend on how well their big 2 play tonight. In a tight contest against this type of team, we would be better off with Blair doing his thing in the paint whenever he’s in the game, and Timmy on the high post, until we need him to terrorize them in the low post late in the game, if it comes to that. It will be interesting to see if OKC is better than their record, and if they have are coming along after a slow start.

  • Jim Henderson

    From the main post:

    “For the first time this season, Blair and Duncan showed the big-man-to-big-man passing skills that inspired Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich in the preseason to proclaim that the two could play together, despite Blair’s limited range and inability to stretch the floor.”

    That’s one of the many things that is underrated about Blair: his passing ability.

    “We’re just going to keep playing and however the game goes, it goes,” Blair said. “I’m not worried about double-doubles, it’s just all about winning right now.”

    Couldn’t of said it better myself.

    td4life
    November 14th, 2010 at 10:17 am

    “I’m all for developing the guy as a starter, but at some point soon I expect that we have to limit his shooting chances….”

    I hope not. That’s not the way to develop young talent. Gotta be willing to live with the bumps and bruises of growing pains along the way. His development is not unusually slow for a player in his position (having played center in college & not encouraged to develop his outside game). It’s pretty normal. And his FGA’s per 36 minutes is less this year than last year, and he hasn’t taken that many outside shots past 10 feet for it to be a real problem (12% of his total FG attempts).

    “I’m just hoping we don’t need an unneccessary two-game losing streak to prompt such a move, but we probably will.”

    I hope “the move” doesn’t occur whether we lose two games or not.

  • td4life

    Henderson,

    I hear you, and don’t neccessarily disagree. But if he remains unable to score away from the basket all season long, I would like to see us use his strengths in order to get those extra wins, and in order to maximize whatever value he has for us in the playoffs this season. Why? When we aren’t built to contend with the top dogs in the league this season anyway? Because, it’s these guys job go for the trophy anyway, they owe it to themselves and to us to do so. I agree that Blair’s upside is as PF, but at some point, I would hope that Pop measures this season as well DB’s long-term potential.

    I was never one of those guys that suggested that we should bench him after a few games, but on the other had, anyone who considers that DB had a breakout game last night, can forget it. If we start dropping games to good teams, while DB is underproducing, let’s rememeber that this season counts as much as any season, and we shouldn’t misuse him as a resource in the short-term. We might not drop such games, even if DB can’t find the net, because our other guys might cover for his lack of production. But, at a certain point, the Spurs have to play their best basketball. When they don’t, the losses are gonna cost them. Is it still too early to re-evaluate and do some tinkering? To me it depends on how well we play over the coming stretch. A stretch that has real meaning in the closely contested West.

    If we were a lottery team, it would be different.

  • Jim Henderson

    td4life
    November 14th, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    I understand your point. If we don’t start to see some even modest improvement from shots beyond 10 ft. at some point later in the season we would probably have to reel in his outside attempts from 12% of all FGA’s to perhaps something closer to 6%. But I wouldn’t worry about it too much at this point. I’ll take a lot of last night type games from Blair, even though he was o-2 on FGA’s beyond 10 ft., which were 25% of his FGA’s for the game.

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  • andy

    with the rules on handchecking, and these new technicals for behaviour, one starts to wonder, and i forget who it was on espn that posited it, if defense really will be the key to championships anymore? i know boston has come extremely close the last two years, but at the end of the day, the lakers emerged triumphant, in no small part to their offensive firepower. yes, they’re no slouches on defense themselves, but given the outcome the last two years, one has to wonder if we tighten up our defense just slightly and sustain this level of offense, if we have a shot at the title (and i understand this is premature, as we’re in the murky dawn of the season). a solid win over okc helps nudge the idea along for sure though.

  • andy

    also, i like that blair came out aggressive in the 2nd half and erased okc’s lead. encouraging, even if he barely missed another double double.

  • Hobson13

    andy
    November 14th, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    You bring up an interesting topic. While defense will always be a huge key in winning championships, it appears that in 2010 you must also be a top tier offensive team to be a contender. Of the top teams in the West, most are giving up in excess of 100pts/game. Utah, SA, LA, Denver, and OKC are all giving up big points. Really the Hornets and Blazers are the only great defensive teams in the West.

    I don’t say much about the East because it is so top heavy. In fact, the East has only 5 teams ABOVE .500 where the West has 8 such teams. The East has only 7 teams averaging 100+ points and another one that averages a over 99 but just shy of 100. The West has 9 teams that average 100+ points plus another 3 averaging over 99, but just shy of 100. In short, the West has greater offensive firepower than the East. This is yet a small reason why the Spurs are giving up so many points. (Even though our defense has been bad for large stretches.)

    I will say that we are very early in the season to say if this league-wide offensive onslaught is here to say AND, most importantly, the playoffs are a different brand of basketball compared to the regular season. I don’t worry about our defense for the sake of the regular season. I worry about our defense because it is vital in April-June.

  • td4life

    Sorry, but you guys are talking nonsense. Not trying to be rude, but you know you gotta be able to force the guys into difficult shots, and shut down the passing lanes, take charges, keep the ball out of the best player’s hands, etc, etc, etc… I know you guys understand this. Btw, portland is not a great defensive team this year by any stretch of the imagination. rather, nate mcmillon is uncreative and just asks them to play a slow, simple half-court game.

    Nawlins is playing tough basketball right now at both ends, and showing everyone that old style ball gets wins.

  • andy

    agreed, and i didn’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t worry about our defense (though holding durant to 23 and 5 turnovers signals improvement). it would warm my little spurs heart to see us consistently hold teams below 90pts/45% shooting. i just think that a number of teams will have passably good to great defense, and i don’t know if that one team with the stellar, above-the-pack defense is the one that comes out on top. it seems to me that you’re going to need some reliable offense (hence rondo and ray allen cut it whereas orlando didn’t).

    sandwich hunterrrrrrrrrrr!!!

  • Jim Henderson

    “i know boston has come extremely close the last two years, but at the end of the day, the lakers emerged triumphant, in no small part to their offensive firepower.”

    Actually the Lakers were ranked higher defensively (5th) last year than they were offensively (11th). Even when LA won in 08-09′, they were 3rd offensively, and 5th defensively, not a big difference. In 2007-08, Boston was 1st defensively, and 12th offensively. Defense is still critical to winning titles. Most teams need a top-five ranked defense or better to win, and almost all need top-ten or better. Right now, the Spurs (I’m using Hollinger) are ranked 8th defensively. We’d have to move past Chicago, Boston, & Orlando to get into the top-five, not an easy task. However, at least we’ve shown some progress since the first 4-5 games. We’re heading in the right direction, but it get’s harder from this point forward. You are right though, any shot at a title will not be won because of stifling defense like years ago, but will occur with a stronger than normal offense, and a defense that is good enough when it counts the most. Not easy to do. It’s easier to win with stifling “D”, because it can generally can be counted on more than shooting percentage in any given game or series.

    Hobson13
    November 14th, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    “I will say that we are very early in the season to say if this league-wide offensive onslaught is here to say AND, most importantly, the playoffs are a different brand of basketball compared to the regular season. I don’t worry about our defense for the sake of the regular season. I worry about our defense because it is vital in April-June.”

    Right, and as you know that April-June defense doesn’t arise from the ashes on April fools day. It is honed over the entire season, and the sooner the better. It’s still way early, but right now I put the Hornets as favorites in the West because of their early commitment at the defensive end.

  • http://Durelllewis@yahoo.com Durell

    the spurs mos def have a shot at getting 2 the finals and winning if they keep playing the way that they are…

    now that we’re actually playing team basketball and don’t need duncan 2 beat good teams so i can only imagine whats gonna happen when he gets going

  • Rad E. Cool

    In regards to Hill’s bracelet, the Australian consumer watchdog gave it an award for being “shonky” (Australian slang for dubious). Funnily enough, Australian Andrew Bogut is one of the spokespeople for it.

    Check it here: http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/money/shopping-and-legal/shopping/the-2010-shonky-awards/page/the-shonkiest-products.aspx

  • Tim in Surrey

    I’ll agree with td4life and Jim Henderson. Defense is ALWAYS crucial. You have to have offense, too (a point I’ve made in previous posts), but defense is literally more important. Offense will always be inconsistent in a game where the primary offensive skill (shooting) is still unsuccessful 40% of the time under the best of circumstances. Defense is consistent, which is what makes it a stronger foundation, just like the ground game in football and deep, accurate ground strokes in tennis. Building your team around a high-scoring offense in basketball is more equivalent to building around passing in football or a big serve in tennis. It’s effective but unreliable. The new rules, like the prevention of hand-checking, don’t change that basic principle. They just mean that great defense takes a different form.

    Has anyone been wondering, btw, whether Pop has shifted his defensive emphasis to focus more on playing the passing lanes and getting deflections, or is it just me? Maybe it’s the addition of a couple of quicker guys and the return of a full-speed Tony, but it looks to me as if our perimeter players are doubling more quickly (especially George!), going for more steals, and jumping into the passing lanes more often.

    Oh, and kudos to Jim Henderson for his comment on the Hornets. I agree. They play like a pack of dogs that hasn’t eaten in a week. Pretty scary. God help the Western Conference if they actually figure out a way to trade Peja for Andre Iguodala without losing anyone from their starting lineup.

  • Jim Henderson

    Tim in Surrey
    November 15th, 2010 at 2:52 am

    “Has anyone been wondering, btw, whether Pop has shifted his defensive emphasis to focus more on playing the passing lanes and getting deflections, or is it just me? Maybe it’s the addition of a couple of quicker guys and the return of a full-speed Tony, but it looks to me as if our perimeter players are doubling more quickly (especially George!), going for more steals, and jumping into the passing lanes more often.”

    You could be right about that. I’ll be looking at that more carefully over the coming weeks to try and ascertain if that appears to be a deliberate long-term strategy, or if it’s just tactics that our perimeter unit this year are more naturally inclined to employ to get favorable results on the defensive end.

  • rob

    Great points by all. With consideration to the Spurs defense at this juncture of the season, it has been pointed out that the Spurs traditionally start playing better defensively as the season progresses. Something I think will still hold true this year.

    Their defensive rating at this time is 9th best in the league. Surprising considering all the talk of how much they need to improve. So if past results come to fruition…the Spurs should only get better than this by the end of the season.

  • Jim Henderson

    rob
    November 16th, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    “Their defensive rating at this time is 9th best in the league. Surprising considering all the talk of how much they need to improve. So if past results come to fruition…the Spurs should only get better than this by the end of the season.”

    But most other good teams get better defensively throughout the year as well. We must crack the top-five to have a shot in my view, not an easy task. We’re probably going to have to overtake three of the following four teams: Chicago, Boston, Dallas, and Miami — and hold off a charge from LA as the season progresses. We have our work cut out, since right now we’re giving up 3 full more points per 100 possessions than the 5th place team.

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