Some interesting reading in the San Antonio Express on Blair
Blair’s first two baskets came on quick teardrop jump hooks, which only looked like they’d been lifted from Parker’s bag of tricks.Blair, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, later threw in a 12-foot baseline jumper, then hit a spinning jump-hook on Richard Jefferson.
“I just worked hard to try and be a little quicker,” Blair said. “Try and expand my game a little bit.”
None of the above seemed possible last season, when Blair led all NBA rookies in field-goal percentage (55.6 percent) despite having — as Popovich said so often — “no moves.”
Ever a rebound magnet, Blair got most of his 7.8 points per game on putbacks and the back end of pick-and-rolls. The expansion of his game to the uncharted territory outside the painted area is an important next step.
“He’s shown us he knows how to play,” Popovich said. “Now it’s just a matter of him continuing to work on that shot. He’s doing it.”
A jump hook. A tear drop. A jump shot. It’s still early, but — note to Popovich — Blair might actually have some moves now.
Also, a nice quote from both Antonio McDyess on Blair’s improvement and some kind words from Popovich in a later article
The first period, though, looked more like a regular season game, and Blair looked like a player who can play farther from the basket than he did as an undersized rookie post man.
“He’s definitely improved,” said veteran big man Antonio McDyess, scratched from the starting lineup and given a night on the bench. “He’s quicker because he’s lighter and stronger. His body fat is down. He’s much more patient now, too.
Popovich declared Blair’s run against the Rockets, even against Yao, a success.
“He knows and understands the game,” Popovich said. “He has a good, innate feel for passing and catching, shooting the ball in a variety of different ways. He has great touch and great hands.
“Because he can pass he can play with Timmy and he has a great knack for the boards. I just think he’s going to be a very good player for us.”
I was watching a small bit of the Rockets and Spurs game a few nights ago and I was shocked at how fit DeJuan Blair looked. He has spent a great deal of time in the weight room working out and getting into shape. A completely different body type from the man we saw in college and even last season with the Spurs.
Here is a snippet from the first article
Moving away from the basket also meant adding quickness, which meant shedding fat. After spending much of the summer at the mercy of the Spurs’ strength staff, Blair reported to camp last week with 8 percent body fat, down from 15 percent at the start of last season.
At 6-foot-7, Blair still weighs 265 pounds, same as last year, but it’s mostly muscle.
Hopefully, this improved quickness will help him out most of all on the defensive end. Blair was a poor to very poor defensive player last season and in order to make the leap to a 30-35 minute a night he’ll need to become an average defender at the very least (or a 20-25ppg threat, defense is the better bet though).
Where the quickness should help the most is with his team defense; making quicker rotations (another year under Pop and alongside Timmy should help the accuracy of his rotations), better pick and roll coverage, and doing a better job getting back in transition after his aggressive forays to the offensive glass.
If Blair can become a solid team defender + a serviceable man-to-man defender, that should go a long way to solidifying him as a 30 minute a night player this season.
With this commitment to his conditioning + expansion to his skill-set, the comparisons to Paul Millsap and more importantly the player Paul Millsap has developed into look right on the money.
DeJuan Blair looks capable of becoming a 30-35 minute guy and a 15/12 nightly threat.
If Blair can indeed play serviceable to good defense for the Spurs this season, then San Antonio should start him at the four alongside Tim Duncan and use Tiago Splitter as a sixth man. That would give San Antonio a very talented trio of big men and Splitter would give the Spurs a good post up option against opposing team’s second units while Duncan rests + a legit seven footer who can provide a shot-blocking presence while Duncan rests.
The Spurs would also have Antonio McDyess as the fourth big in the rotation and Matt Bonner as a fifth big in the depth chart. Dice is a good player in such a role and Bonner provides a different and useful skill-set (perimeter shooting). The Spurs bigs would still be vulnerable quickness wise to certain teams + Blair will be vulnerable to LA’s / Portland’s size and length but overall they’ll be a highly capable group.
The Spurs get to combine their strong big man rotation with a very strong backcourt of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and George Hill plus boast a solid small forward in Richard Jefferson who from first blush appears to be more comfortable in the Spurs system in pre-season so far. Unfortunately, the Spurs continue to lack depth on the wings; lacking size, rebounding and defensive ability. They also continue to lack the flexibility with both their wings + big men to match up against opposing team’s quicker lineups (small ball type lineups).
So, the Spurs have some very nice strengths but continue to have significant flaws.
Those flaws will likely stop the Spurs short of being a legitimate contender for the title but they’ll still be a force to be reckoned with in the West + a much improved side over last year’s version with the addition of Splitter and the progress of Blair.
Interesting game on tonight between the Clippers and Spurs. Good opportunity to see how Blair’s defense stands up against the talents of Blake Griffin.
I hope I’ll be able to catch the game later, and if I do, that’s what I’ll be looking for because Blair’s defensive ability is one of the biggest variables/keys to San Antonio’s ability to challenge for a title.
Update: Blair is looking quite weak defensively here in the first quarter. Blair’s development, or lack thereof, defensively is something to keep track of throughout the regular season. It’ll be one of the bigger variables in deciding how much of a title challenge San Antonio makes.