DeJuan Blair ready to unleash the rage

by

Watercolor painting by Jesse Blanchard

Exiled to Russia for two months, presumably wrestling bears and carrying trees (if not Hasheem Thabeet) over his back in a remake of the Rocky IV training montage, DeJuan Blair had a lot of time to think.

His two-year NBA career has seen its share of peaks and valleys, most notably being entrenched in the starting center position for much of last year before promptly defending or eating his way out of the rotation as the playoffs approached.

But away from his family, his coaches, and facing a season away from good friend George Hill, Blair believes his time spent with Russian team Krasnye Kryla Samara helped him mature.

“It was good to be alone,” Blair said. “Just being over there in that environment, I thought a lot, I grew up a lot, I think it was a great decision on my part.”

Between pushups and sprints, Blair had time to review his first two seasons on film. What he saw was enough to make him angry. Or at least enough to bring back the rage.

“I think I’m going to have a lot more rage like my last year at Pitt, I want to bring that DeJuan back,” Blair said. “I was trying to play like a robot, just not playing like me. I think this year I’m going to play like myself, not think too much, and just go out there and play.”

[pullquote]”I think I’m going to have a lot more rage like my last year at Pitt, I want to bring that DeJuan back.”[/pullquote]

Blair has some precedent for this developmental curve. Previously George Hill, his best friend on the team, played an almost robotic brand of basketball as head coach Gregg Popovich and staff built his point guard game from the ground up.

With two years of corporate knowledge and the trust of his teammates, Hill was prompted by Popovich to return to his college days as Indiana George, helping the combo guard come into his own.

A refocused and reinvigorated DeJuan Blair coming off the bench would be a boost for a Spurs team generally absent that public display of fire, give or take a Mario Elie or Stephen Jackson. And more importantly, a wildcard amongst its big man rotation.

Between Rasho Nesterovic, Nazr Mohammad, Kurt Thomas, and Antonio McDyess, the Spurs have always been able to find able system guys to pair with Tim Duncan. But as solid as such players have been, they have mostly been–as Blair described himself–robotic.

When the Spurs have thrived, it has been with a chaotic big man (Malik Rose, Fabricio Oberto, Robert Horry) creating plays coaches and systems can’t always account for alongside Tim Duncan.

But in order to do that, first Blair has to become accountable, mature, and dependable. In short, the professionalism head coach Gregg Popovich demands of all his players. And that, of course, begins with how he takes care of himself.

“DeJaun came back ready to go,” Popovich said. “He needs to lose a couple of pounds, but we like him to be a little bit over because your’e going to lose some in training camp, so he’s doing really well.”

Now in his third year, with the Spurs sporting rookies Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joseph, and younger in general, Blair is ready to come into his own. In addition to the requisite work on that 15-foot jumper, Blair said he is ready to help lead and set an example.

“[With the compressed season] I think they’re going to depend on me a lot to come through and try to be a vet to the rookies and knowing what to expect every game,” Blair said. “I’m going to have to step up in that aspect, I’m ready for it. I’m ready for all challenges.”

 

  • Dave Smith

    Welcome back, DeJuan Bear!

  • Nima K.

    Hope the roar doesn’t turn into a whimper come playoff time.

  • SpursFanSteve

    Dude, He’s using your watercolor as his profile pic on twitter. That’s pretty awesome, man. Congrats.

  • Colinrigney

    Show, don’t tell……..and not just in spurts either.  Two years ago there were some posters on this site comparing Blair to Charles Barkley (you know who you are)!  A sustained effort and consistency is what will make Blair a mainstay in the NBA.  All Star comparisons be damned.  Without a bread and butter post move or jump shot, Blair will be a career role player.  I only hope he can find his niche and produce on a nightly basis for the Spurs. 

    I hope he succeeds. 

  • Easy B

    Dajuan needs to copy Timmy’s back to the basket baseline spin move- utilize the wide frame to pin opponents; should develop a running scoop shot for the middle of the lane if he can’t go baseline, and work on pump and head fakes under the basket to draw contact more. If he is moving to his weak hand it needs to be a direction change, followed by a high bank shot, or a reverse layup using the basket as protection. Then he should work on baseline jumpers from 15ft. Any other result with the ball in his hands should result in a pass. Those aspects would grow his game, whilst keeping him efficient within the offense. When Timmy is resting, they could feed the bear down low, whilst having Tiago setting high screens for cutting guards to attack the rim. His power and speed down low needs to be credible enough to play the role. If he has 2 or 3 solid options that will be enough to keep the D guessing.

    Having another target man in the post will be critical this year to spell Timmy effectively, and keep the perimeter D of opponents honest when Timmy is not on the floor.

    This brings me to think that Dajuan should be spelling Timmy off the bench at PF, and Tiago should start and center and defend the opponents power forward. Bonner is spot minutes and then we need someone to back up Tiago. If Dice has enough left in the tank, he would be ideal to play 10 minutes in that role. Ideally they need another big on top of that as insurance. Not sure what the plans are there.

    The guard and wing rotation looks better this year – better balance with Speedy Claxton 2 coming on board. Say what you want about RJ, but with the amnesty talk and overall smack down he has received, he has remained professional. Perhaps he will play better when TJ is running the point, but for his money he should be starting. It is a challenge for Pop to get as much as possible out of him again. Maybe Kawhi gets a few starts this year with the tight schedule. Im sure most fans agree that if you trade up in the draft, you should look to throw them into the player rotation early and often. Green looks like good competition for minutes too. That leaves Anderson and Neal to manage the shooting guard duties with Manu. Very nice depth.

    There is in my opinion, a higher ceiling than last year’s team. Big man D looks like the biggest question mark right now.

  • http://twitter.com/SpursDailyNews SanAntonioDailyNews

    Welcome back! Spurs forever in our <3

  • BALLHOG

    Amnesty on Jefferson? Would that facilitate the Spurs filling out thier front court? No. Will they go out and bring in the pieces that they obviously need? No.

    The Spurs consistent lack of activity in free agency is now glaring as well as concerning.

    Front office has simply been unable and seemingly unwilling to surround its core players with the right pieces, nor have they been willing nor able to develop the younger talent that they had opportunities with. Same old song and dance.

    Mysetriously, as it has always been, no media scrutiny for this front office or coaching staff. They continually fail to field a complete and balanced roster, yet not even the most outspoken of analysts make any mention of it. Odd?

    Ive nick-named them the NBA’s “The Untouchables”.

    Regardless, its sad for the fans who simply want a competitive team to cheer on.

    Unfortunately, this FO and coaching staff has leverage and they know it. Four Banners hanging in the SBC Center will probably not be acheived again. Living on yesterday, doing nothing today, and making nice $ in the process.

    Awsome Gig indeed!

  • http://twitter.com/blanchard48moh Jesse Blanchard

    In a weird way, I think DeJuan Blair is better off studying Tony Parker than Tim Duncan, for his footwork and below the rim finishing ability. I think more important than developing a jump shot would be developing a tear drop for Blair.

  • Dromjohn

    Oberto “chaotic”?
    I always found Oberto to be exactly where he was supposed to be, and always exactly where Parker expected the pick.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Aw man… Why you gotta go there? They work hard, do a good job, and have delivered results for years. And yet you gotta slag them and imply they’re lazy. Just amazing. You’re like the guy who told John Wooden on the arena floor, immediately after he won his last championship, “Great win coach, this makes up for letting us down last year” (when UCLA had only gone to the Final Four, after eight straight championships). You can’t even recognize champions when you’ve got them in your own back yard! [shakes head and sighs…]

  • http://twitter.com/blanchard48moh Jesse Blanchard

    Oberto moved naturally off the ball, cutting into open spaces, and tapping out offensive rebounds and second possessions. 

  • Nima K.

    Spurs just signed Gani Lawal and Antoine Hood.
    Serious prospects, or D-leaguers?

  • Lvmainman

    Are the Spurs contemplating any moves for a big man? Are they trying to get a Anthony Randolph, Tyrus Thomas, Al Jefferson type player that could help the Spurs win? By win, I mean get past the 1st or 2nd round of the playoffs.

    Knicks signed Chandler, Mavericks added Lamar Odom, Pacers signed David West, Celtics resigned Jeff Green.

    Can we try McDyess and Jefferson for Al Jefferson? Jazz have 1 small forward in Gordon Heyward and a slew of big men in Okur, Kanter, Favors, and Millsap.

    Are the Spurs doing anything?

  • Lvmainman

    Grizzlies added McRoberts.

  • TD BestEVER

    I have been saying this for 2 years now……… The Spurs FO are chicken SHHHHHHH……. They are scared to make a move that could cost them in the long run…..they don’t take chances(except RJ-not that big of a risk-good guy)

    POP refuses to coach up/develop young prospects anymore…..They are all just getting paid to drink Kool-aid in the shade…… and until The owners realize that we will not be competitive again.   That’s why we fans have to MAKE SOME NOISE and make them hear our frustration……….. There are plenty of young BIG’s out there that we could have made a run at over the last few years but you never even hear we are in the discussion…….

  • Lvmainman

    Mavericks added Brendan Wright, Raptors signed Aaron Gray, Trailblazers signed Kurt Thomas.

  • Mackattack777

    I’m a beloved spurs fan but they are making me mad now,cause why aren’t we wheeling and dealing cause reality that team like it is won’t get it done.Please Coach Pop get rid of Matt Bonner,Mcdyess,and try and trade RJ,to help get another big man,and try and get rip Hamilton for cheap since he got waived.Come on Spurs make a move Please

  • Hobson13

    The Spurs need to either go big or go home.  We either need to make a relatively big move or just scuttle the team and stock up for draft picks next year.  Even if we had gotten Caron Butler or Josh Howard or any of the washed up old players the front office gravitates toward, it wouldn’t have made a big difference this year.  Once again, we appear to be standing pat with the team that was beaten in the first round last year. 

    At this point in time, we desperately need a another good, young big.  Bonner is a joke, Dyess (if he’s coming back) is 487 years old, Duncan has 1 good knee, Pop won’t play Splitter, and Blair is WILDLY inconsistent.  With this said, why in the HELL did the front office go after guys like Butler and Howard???  We already have RJ and then two other good, young players who can play the 3 (KL and in spurts Anderson). 

    The free agent whiffs over the past few years and our inability to find another great player in the draft over the past 6-8 years makes me think more and more that the drafting of Duncan, Parker, and Manu were just plain luck.  The only logical explaination for doing nothing in the trade market this offseason is that the FO thinks they can land a good amnesty cut player. 

    At this point, OKC, LA, Memphis, Dallas, and maybe even LA Clipps (if they land Paul) will all be at least as good, if not better than the Spurs this year.  It seems like every year we keep slipping farther and farther out of the title picture.  I fear the Spurs may come down to earth this season and be competing for the 4-6 seeds out West.  I just don’t see us having another monster regular season like last year with everyone being 1 year older…

  • Dr. McCoy

    Hey, the Spurs signed 7 foot Luke Zeller from Notre Dame! OOOOH, WOW! something to be excited about!

  • Tim in Surrey

    I don’t know… I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. As in, you guys think you’ve got brains and I disagree.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Lawal’s a D-leaguer, I think. He fills a position of need (PF), but isn’t ready yet. Hood I don’t know much about, except that he played for Jeff Bzdelik at Air Force and then in Europe for a while.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Lawal’s a D-leaguer, I think. He fills a position of need (PF), but isn’t ready yet. Hood I don’t know much about, except that he played for Jeff Bzdelik at Air Force and then in Europe for a while.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Oh, well NOW I understand the criticism of the front office. If their competitors are adding star players like Brandon Wright or Aaron Gray, we’re definitely bringing up the rear–to say nothing of Kurt Thomas! I mean, c’mon R.C., that guy led the NCAA in scoring and rebounding once and he was available for the league minimum! He must be the answer to our front court problems!

  • Tim in Surrey

    Oh, well NOW I understand the criticism of the front office. If their competitors are adding star players like Brandon Wright or Aaron Gray, we’re definitely bringing up the rear–to say nothing of Kurt Thomas! I mean, c’mon R.C., that guy led the NCAA in scoring and rebounding once and he was available for the league minimum! He must be the answer to our front court problems!

  • TD BestEVER

    And you think you are a comedian…….. not funny…..Look at all the moves that have been made the past few years and teams that we were always better than that have come from behind to SURPASS us as we did and still do NOTHING……… But as long as they have fans like you who never call them on it they will continue to do nothing and get away with it……..

    Where have all the competitive/intelligent fans gone…….

  • Bry

    The only luck was getting the #1 pick with Duncan. No team has had worse draft picks in the past generation, which is why KL was our highest pick in an amazing 14 years. 14 years of never even having a mid-first round pick and they still put together a phenomenal squad.
    Tim Duncan  – no-brainer #1 pick  But, then look at all the low-first round and 2nd round picks the accomplished (if they are getting lucky THAT often in the late-first round and 2nd round, it means that it is isn’t luck. Name me one other team in NBA history with such a track record from low picks). Yes, Manu and Tony have played far above their draft-level, but so have Hill, and Blair. Anderson and Splitter will likely play above their draft position ALREADY this year. And, although KL was the highest pick in years, he still was not even a lottery pick. You can expect him to out-perform his draft level as well. By next season the Spurs will likely have six different guys all out-performing their draft level (with George Hill gone to Indiana). If you can find any other front office in the entire league even approaching that success rate, by all means, inform us.

  • Dr. McCoy

    Hey Mack, I feel ya! I don’t understand the FO’s infatuation with SF’s!!! I hear that they are intrested in Reggie Williams, a SF from Golden State. Idunno!!! Even the Josh Howard deal has gone cold. Haven’t heard if that’s going to happen or not. Could it be that the coaching staff is grading RJ right now to see if he made some improvement & is worth keeping? Hmmm… Who knows, but it seems that the FO are not willing to trade or spend big for a BIG or anyone for that reason. I also understand that with this shortened season, chemistry is going to play an important factor & perhaps the staff may be taking that into consideration. Right now, I think that everyone knows that a BIG is the key factor in the defense aspect of the game as well as the Spurs chances to going all the way, especially with the current cast & crew we got. Idunno, but the Dice situation seems up in the air, & there seems to be no urgency to address THAT issue right now, other than bringing in D-League talent in & roll the dice on them (no pun intended). Any who, we’ll have to wait it out, as always, but I’m not holding my breath for any BIG or suprising moves though. I’m figuring that we will pretty much see the same thing as we did last year; play “bombs away from the trey” & “speed ball.”  Perhaps with Leonard & Anderson, they can provide some better D. Perhaps T-Spitt will be more comfortable & improved, & Blair will play like the Bear that he was. STAAAY TUNED boys & girls!!!

  • DorieStreet

    Lawal played 3 seasons for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. (If I remember correctly, he led the ACC in rebounding as a sophmore.)
    He was drafted by the Suns in 2010 and was on their Dleague squad.

  • DorieStreet

    @ Tim in Sarcasm,

    Yeah, we are really missing out on some top-shelf talent :)

  • DorieStreet

    Well, let’s put them all out there on the court Dec. 26th and see what they can do. Anderson is healthy, Splitter is acclimated to American basketball, and Leonard performed well against bigtime college competition in last spring’s NCAA tournament.
    Pop needs to let they play and learn on the fly like he did 10 years ago with Tony Parker.

  • Bry

    No doubt he will. Pop will need his bench more than any point since the last lockout. We’ll have this compressed schedule with tons of back to backs along with a bunch of older players. There’s almost no chance that Pop won’t give heavier minutes to Anderson, Splitter, KL, Neal, and even Blair. 

  • Titletown9903057d

    It looks like they got scared after the RJ move and are a little shy now at going for real moves.I agree and looks like the same this year. Where’s the news of our coveted big man we’ve been wanting after the Bonner/Blair debacle in the playoffs? One of those two has to go. I really can’t see Bonner a Spur for the rest of his career.

  • Titletown9903057d

    I like Gani. He’s got some shot blocking abilities and a serious rebounder.

  • Titletown9903057d

    I just hope Gani’s still here for the scrimmage on Monday the 19th. Like to see him on the court before Pop brings out his axe.

  • Titletown9903057d

    KL hasn’t played a minute in the NBA and we’re giving him the benefit of the doubt. Gani had similar game so why not take a good look at him?

  • Titletown9903057d

    If we stay pat we will get our asses handed to us again.

  • Titletown9903057d

    I don’t think he’s NBA experienced yet.

  • Titletown9903057d

    I think its because we haven’t had a defensive gamer since Bowen or an all around SF like Elliot.

  • Titletown9903057d

    But really going after SF’s? Instead of hearing news that they landed front court help we are sitting biting our nails to see if 31 year old SF’s will come here.
    the FO did have their run with luck. Now it’s time to actually work and take some risks.

  • TD BestEVER

    Another BIG deal that the Spurs missed out on……. Dallas just sent Brewer and Fernandez to Denver for a future 2016 2ND RD DRAFT PICK…………..

    ARE YOU F@$KING KIDDING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We wanted Brewer really bad last year and now Dallas moves him for NOTHING and we can’t get in on it………… Another let down in a long series of let downs by our FO……. we could have gotten younger and more experienced at both wing spots…… and could have found a replacement for RJ allowing us to waive him……… but all for not

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  • DorieStreet

    Now the Mavs add Lamar Odom.
    So their starting frontcourt is Dirk (7-0, 245, 32 1/2 y.o.) Brendan Haywood (7-0, 263, 32 y.o.)  and Odom (6-10, 230, 32 y.o.)

  • Hobson13

    I was thinking along the same lines.  We could have cut Jefferson and traded a pick for two guys who can be very nice backup’s.  It would have even been worth selling next years 1st rounder for those two.  Brewer and KL could have run double duty at the SF and Fernandez could easily spell Manu with all these back to backs this year.  Another move missed out by the FO.  But hey, on a positive note, we’ve signed a couple of lifelong Dleaguers!!

  • Hobson13

    This Mavs lineup doesn’t scare me the same way as Dirk, Chandler, and Haywood.  Besides, the Mavs have taken a serious step back this year with the loss of Bulter, Barea, and Chandler.  At this point, they are on our level.

  • TD BestEVER

    They are not as good defensively, but can probably just out score us now……. With Dirk and Odom on the court we would have trouble matching up with them……….

  • http://twitter.com/blanchard48moh Jesse Blanchard

    I’m afraid you guys assume the Mavericks would send those guys to the Spurs for nothing.

  • TD BestEVER

    You never know until you try……. The point is we don’t TRY….. we are never in the conversation…….. If we were in the conversation and he went elsewhere like Grant Hill I would understand that he got a much better offer or just didn’t want to play in San Antonio……..Either one we would all be able to live with,  But again we are never in the conversation……

  • Hobson13

    If the Mavs shipped these cats off to the Nets or Cavs or some Eastern Conference team, I would understand what you are saying.  However, the Mavs gave them away to a Western Conference team that will probably make the playoffs this year.  If Dallas wants to give them away to Denver, then why not San Antonio?  It’s not like either team has a real shot at a champtionship this year…

  • Popovich’s Dermatologist

    The Spurs had the second best record in the NBA last season. That’s is “competitive” by most teams’ standards. The Spurs won’t be able to rebuild until TD and Manu come off the books.

  • TD BestEVER

    And I actually think they would have sent them to us if we could have offered more…….. I mean a 2nd round pick in Next Years draft for instance.  I’m sure that would have been much more appealing to them