DeJuan Blair‘s departure from the San Antonio Spurs had been long expected, with his decline in production and minutes since his rookie debut with the team.
Blair signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks for the veteran’s minimum salary in late July, but caught some attention when he spoke openly about his frustration with coach Gregg Popovich of the Spurs and his reluctance to play Blair in the finals.
When asked at his press conference about his desire to back in the finals, Blair had this to say:
“Of course I want to get back. I don’t think we’ve (Spurs) would have came up short if I would’ve played but, hey, keep that out there.”
While it’s in a player’s instinct to believe they belong on the floor when it matters most, Blair certainly wasn’t one that showed this season that he deserved to be in the rotation, let alone be on the floor in the NBA Finals. Nor have the Spurs taken any hit by Blair leaving the team.
After scaring away many teams during the 2009 NBA Draft due to his lack of ACLs, Blair was selected by the Spurs and looked like a steal after being selected to the All-Rookie Second Team. His weaknesses, though, began to show and were too costly for San Antonio.
Blair’s PER fell below league average last season at 14.6 and saw his rebounding numbers, which was initially one of his best assets, fall below his rookie year production. He wasn’t able to shed the extra weight he carried nor show a noticeable improvement in his game to warrant rotation minutes for San Antonio.
Slowly, Blair found himself sliding further down the bench as the seasons went by, losing his starting spot, to losing his spot in the rotation, to racking up DNPs in the most crucial games of the year in the playoffs. While he is a solid NBA player that can find improvement in Dallas, the decision for Popovich to sit him was an understandable and reasonable move.
First of all, being a 6’7″ center is tough to pull off in the NBA. While he wasn’t bad at staying in front of his man on defense, the height differential was simply too much and was often taken advantage of by opposing offenses.
Tiago Splitter, at 6’11″, helped with that issue, and Boris Diaw had superior offensive IQ, shooting and passing skills which helped the Spurs reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. Matt Bonner‘s 3-point range also earned him spot minutes and it appears as though the team is set on developing Aron Baynes and Jeff Pendergraph.
Blair only played in 12 out of 21 games this postseason, averaging 6.3 minutes, mostly in garbage time. It’s understandable for Blair to want to play in the biggest stage of basketball there is, but as for being the key to getting the Spurs over the top?
No, Blair had no advantages throughout this playoff run and it was the right choice to sit him. He can talk about how he wants to get back to the Finals all he desires, but on a partially rebuilding team like the Mavs, that’s not happening anytime soon.