Meet DeJuan Blair. You might remember him as the big man without ACLs who played pretty well for the Spurs — he started all but four games two seasons ago and averaged 9.5 points a game. However, he fell out of the rotation last season as Popovich went with the bigger, more solid defender that is Tiago Splitter. Popovich also liked the shooting that Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner brought to the lineup, so they got more run than Blair.
Those rotation changes helped San Antonio improve it’s defensive rating by two points per 100 possessions and saw them reach the NBA Finals.
When asked about getting back to the NBA Finals, Blair, “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.”
If Blair were out there, the Spurs likely are not in the Finals, but we shouldn’t let a few pesky facts get in the way of our resentments. Besides, Spurs fans know they were just a made free throw or defensive rebound away from winning it, not more Blair.
Blair should be warned, however, that Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is as old school a disciplinarian as Popovich when it comes to minutes and team structure. He should get more run on this Dallas roster, but if he wants to see his minutes dry up fast he should try slamming Carlisle and his rotations.
Top-10 college recruit Anfernee Simmons may go straight to NBA
A couple of years back, Thon Maker decided to play a post-graduate fifth year of prep school ball, not go to a major college, then jump to the NBA. He could because he had graduated a year before and was 19, the Bucks took him in the lottery, and so far it has worked out for everyone.
Now another recruit, Anfernee Simmons, may follow that path. Simmons is spending this year at the IMG Academy, and the combo guard is considered a top-10 recruit in this class.
“Some people have brought it to my attention,” Simons told ESPN during an interview in Connecticut, where his team was participating in the National Prep Showcase. “As long as the opportunity is there, I will do it.
“I can see myself going to the NBA combine, if I have enough teams to actually invite me or recommend me for the combine and enough teams want to bring me for workouts. I really need to hit the weight room hard and get a little stronger.”
This is a sensible approach — find out where you roughly fall in the draft, then make a decision. Listen to the teams, not friends/family/agents. If you have a first-round guarantee, then go pro.
Givony and others describe the 6’3″ Simmons as talented but still a project for the NBA level, starting with the fact he needs to get stronger (something true of most rookies). Not that it really scares off teams any longer, many are willing to develop and wait on a player with potential (he could spend a chunk of his first season in the G-League). Simmons is fast when he drives, and has a smooth release on his jumper. If he gets stronger and his game matures, a team may take a risk on him.
Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days
That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.
Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return
“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.
This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.
The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.
Joakim Noah on if he can play at former level: “Probably not. Probably not.”
For three games, Joakim Noah has been clear of the 20-game PED suspension he started at the end of last season.
For three games, he has not even dressed for the Knicks.
This is the former Defensive Player of the Year who was already on the decline when Phil Jackson gave him a $72 million contract that is now the worst in the NBA. Noah is out of the rotation, where Enes Kanter starts at center (with Kristaps Porzingis at the four) and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench.
“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’’ Noah said in his first comments since being reinstated. “I understand the situation. I’m going to make the best of it.”
When asked if he still feels he can be close to the player he was in his 2013-14 campaign, Noah said: “Probably not. Probably not. You know. I can help. I feel like I could help this team and that’s just my reality. But I just want to just be the best that I can be.
“It’s not about trying to be what I was three, four years ago, because it’s not the reality.”
Noah is a smart and mature player, he understands his reality, and he has the exact attitude you want a veteran off the bench. He can help in practices, he can help because he understands how to play defense and can teach it, and eventually, he will get a chance on the court. He is not part of the future of the Knicks, but he can guide these young players.
The Knicks new management will look for a way to unload Noah’s contract, but considering the sweeteners the Knicks would need to throw in to get a team to deal for Noah, it’s unlikely we see any action on that front for a long time.
Frustrated Gregg Popovich calls all three referees “f****** blind”