DeJuan Blair Expects Trade From Spurs
by Mike Monroe in DeJuan Blair, Olympics, San Antonio Spurs
LAS VEGAS — DeJuan Blair started 62 of 66 games for the Spurs last season. When he looked at the standings, he saw they had a 50-16 record, equaling Chicago for the best mark in the NBA during the shortened regular season.
In the playoffs, the wide-bodied Spurs center-forward found himself on the bench. He played in only 10 of San Antonio’s 14 playoff games. He did not start a single game. His total playing time in the playoffs: 76 minutes.
Blair views that as a message, and a strong one: It seems the Spurs doubt him. And because of that, he has his doubts that he will play a fourth season in silver and black.
A member of the select team that is helping the U.S. Olympic team prepare for London, a trimmed-down Blair is showcasing his talent in front of NBA coaches, general managers and scouts on hand at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center practice court to watch spirited scrimmage sessions.
“I’m trying to get down to 260 (pounds), and it’s working,” Blair said. “I’ll be great by September. I know I’m on the trading block, so we’ll see what happens.”
Blair makes no attempt to hide his feelings when he discusses his diminished role in the playoffs, including his belief he might be better off elsewhere.
“I love the Spurs, but they’ve got a lot of ‘bigs,’ and they’re bringing somebody else from overseas, so where am I going to fall at?” he said. “I was out of the rotation at the end of the season, so imagine next year.
“That’s something I really don’t want to go through again, because it tore me down.”
The European player Blair believes the Spurs want to add for next season is 6-foot-11 Slovenian center Erazem Lorbeck, 28, who plays in the Spanish ACB League and whose rights the Spurs obtained as part of the 2011 draft-night deal that sent Blair’s pal, George Hill, to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for the draft rights to Kawhi Leonard.
Blair also presumes the Spurs want to re-sign Boris Diaw, the 6-foot-9 center-forward from France who signed a free-agent contract with the Spurs in late March and ended up with the starting center spot he once manned.
Blair doesn’t question Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s decision making, as difficult as it was for him to accept a reduced role.
“I had a ball last season, except for the playoffs,” he said. “I had fun on the bench, cheering. It was great to see the fellas play hard and win and everything. Pop’s a great coach, but I wasn’t what he wanted at that time. So take it as ‘what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.’
“It definitely made me stronger, but it definitely kept my head down. It happened the last two years. I really don’t know what’s going on. It messes my head up. It’s tough. Boris came and was a better fit. At the same time, I stayed positive and had a great attitude and kept going and had a lot of class. I grew up a lot.”
Blair turned 23 as the post-lockout season concluded in late April. What has happened since requires maturity.
“The Spurs are excellent,” he said. “They used me to get everybody going and just get to the playoffs. That’s what it’s seemed like the last two seasons. But it’s a business, and everybody has their role, and I played mine, obviously, in the season. That’s proved right now.
“We were No. 1 the last two seasons when I was starting, and then lost in the playoffs when I wasn’t. That’s just, well, I don’t know, common sense.
“But I’ll be all right.”
Getting the call from USA Basketball to be part of the select team that is helping the Olympians prepare for London has helped Blair cope with what he believes is an uncertain NBA future.
“It’s great,” he said. “It’s a chance to compete against the world’s best. Hopefully, maybe one day I can be on the (Olympic) team.
“I don’t know how the select team works. Maybe I can play somewhere for Team USA next summer.”