We told you it was coming, and now that day is here:
DeJuan Blair is the starting center for the San Antonio Spurs. ACLs are over-rated.
Gregg Popovich made it official talking to the Express-News. Blair gets the nod in just his second season, at age 21, on a team with big aspirations this season.
“It’s coming pretty quick for him, and I think he’s handled it well,” Popovich said. “He’s still got a ways to go, but I think playing with those guys will help him improve and understand what’s necessary more quickly.
“He’s got to get some habits so that he’s consistent, mostly at the defensive end, and disciplined about what has to happen, and I think playing with those guys is going to help him do that.”
Blair was tenacious last season then came into camp much more fit — 15 pounds under his playing weight last season, which made him quicker. That and his usual energy earned him the spot.
The Spurs will score, but the question is how does this impact the Spurs defense.
Last night against the Rockets the Spurs interior defense was lacking. In today’s NBA — especially with the defensive enforcement of no hand checks on the perimeter — every team needs someone who can protect the rim.
Blair is just 6’7” and Duncan is not that guy anymore. That has left the interior of the Spurs defense looking soft. The Rockets exploited it. The Spurs rotations were a little slow, and players were getting beat.
One thing the pair does well is defend the pick-and-roll. Both play it well — Duncan used to be the best big in the game at defending the play, but he seems to have slipped a little, although he is still quite good). Blair uses his quickness well against it.
Still there is no substitute for size —the Spurs really need 6’11” Tiago Splitter to step up. He is injured and is expected to miss at least opening night or more while recovering. He is not a classic shot blocker, but he is mobile and tall and does a better job protecting the rim than Blair right now. Even when he comes back Splitter will not start, but there will be nights the Spurs need his length and he will get key run.
But for now, Blair is the man. He’s the starter.