San Antonio Spurs looking to rebound in more ways than one

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On the rare night this preseason in which the San Antonio Spurs newest starting center was not among the team’s leading scorers, DeJuan Blair’s impact was still felt in last night’s 108-85 victory over Caja Caja Laboral, leading the way to the Spurs 18 rebound advantage.

For the Spanish League team making it’s way through the NBA, Tim Duncan (10 points, 11 rebounds) might have been expected, and Matt Bonner (15 points) no different than most big men they see overseas, but the (generously listed) 6-7 rebounding machine known as DeJuan Blair certainly breaks most molds basketball coaches could hope to prepare for.

And so far this preseason Blair is certainly breaking the Spurs mold, as explained by The Point Forward’s Zach Lowe:

The Spurs have won the same way for a decade: with low-risk basketball. On offense, they want one good shot. That means no turnovers and (mostly) no crashing the offensive glass for fear of giving up a transition bucket on the other end. On defense, they want to force you into taking one bad shot. They don’t gamble for steals, and they don’t give you second chances.

The Spurs stretched that model to its breaking point two years ago, when they ranked last in offensive rebounding, drawing fouls on offense and forcing turnovers on defense. They topped the league in the opposite categories — defensive rebounding, protecting the ball and avoiding fouls. It was low-risk hoops, as if implemented by a computer system.

Neither a sweet shooting floor spacer, or cookie cutter system defender, DeJuan Blair’s presence in the starting lineup brings a touch of unpredictability and controlled chaos the normally formulaic Spurs have lacked outside of Manu Ginobili in recent seasons.

Like Ginobili before him, DeJuan Blair may be bucking the Spurs trends (and Popovich’s tendencies) by taking the team to the top of the offensive rebounding charts, second only to the Los Angeles Lakers at 13.8 per game.

An underrated part of the San Antonio Spurs championship mixes have been the energy big men mixing chaos into Popovich’s otherwise structured system. Between Antonio McDyess, Matt Bonner, and Kurt Thomas the Spurs have employed solid, if robotic big men–filling their roles by fitting into their defensive rotations and hitting jumpers without turnovers.

While they filled their roles adequately, the problem with system players is you can always account for them: how they defend, where they are on the court, their tendencies.

The Spurs championship teams have featured two prominent chaotic big men who went about it in very different ways–Malik Rose with his boundless energy and athleticism, and Fabricio Oberto with his intuitive feel for the angles and cuts. Both kept possessions alive that the Spurs otherwise wouldn’t have had, created havoc defensively, and generally brought things Popovich himself could not account for, let alone the other team.

In Blair the Spurs have a player that combines that energy and athleticism with the intuitive feel. Last season Blair helped take the Spurs to near the league average in offensive rebounds, and while it’s risky to take too much from preseason games, it appears the Spurs will be much better this season.

Because if the Spurs plan to rebound from last season’s sweep, DeJuan Blair’s offensive rebounding is a good place to start.

  • spursfanbayarea

    Will be a nice change in pace subbing in and out blair and splitter. When we need some defensive boards, we can go with splitter. When we need to get some Offensive boards we can go with blair. Very excited about our front court this year.

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  • GitErDun

    You never quite know what Blair is going to do, but it is usually good.

  • GitErDun

    Blair with a jump shot, a teardrop, and a hook, AWESOME!!!

  • rob

    I’ve always liked controlled chaos because one really doesn’t know how to prepare for such abandonment to the norm. Ginobili plays that way a lot. Even Parker gets in those modes sometimes.

    What needs to be watched is Blair’s decision making during games as to when he is using it effectively or hurting the team.

    But as fans…I’m sure all of us are glad he is with the Spurs instead of somewhere else. And the other team’s that had the chance to pick him before the Spurs …will probably regard that (non)decision as one of the worse mistakes they made.

    Hope the knees hold out for a few really good years at the level he plays now.

  • Tyler

    How this guy went 37th overall with his level of production in college is beyond me….

  • Jesse

    @Tyler How he went 37th? Well he has NO Acls in his knees…Most teams were freaked out about that but the spurs took a chance because he was the best available player at 37th with a great risk reward ratio for the team.

  • OneWing

    All good and fine and no one, not even Pop, is going to turn down that kind of production. But will Pop trust Blair, with his current size and skill set, in the last two minutes of a close game? Should he? Or will he rely on Splitter, Bonner or McDyess?

    A minor quibble, sure, but worth pointing out, IMO.

  • Mike T

    OneWing,

    Good point, but this year I’m not too concerned with whether Blair will be in the game in the last two minutes. I think he will help us get to the last two minutes by playing well before that (I hope he averages around 25 minutes a game).

  • marcos4303

    And BTW, Oberto is still a free agent.

    What better safety big man than him?