Spurs rookie DeJuan Blair aims to eat up space
Posted Jul 12 2009 8:35PM
LAS VEGAS -- He's been called the steal of the second round, but DeJuan Blair wants to be known for something else.
"I'm a space eater," Blair said with a grin.
The 37th pick in the 2009 Draft by the Spurs didn't waste any time gobbling up real estate and rebounds Sunday afternoon, throwing his 265 pounds (and considerable backside) around as soon as he checked into his first Summer League game.
A jumper from one of his new teammates went up and Blair made a beeline for the paint. Clearing room against a taller New Orleans defender, the 6-foot-7 Blair snatched the rebound and went back up. He missed but got it back before muscling the ball in.
"You cannot teach space," Spurs assistant and Summer League coach Don Newman said. "He's a space eater. He knows how to take it up, he knows how to hold his space and he's a physical guy by nature.
"He's going to get accustomed to how the game is called and those things will come, but one thing you don't want to do is back him off. You want to play like he plays. He'll continue to take that space."
Blair hadn't even broken a sweat and he began to fill up the box score. In five first-quarter minutes, the Pitt product had five points and five boards. The line after Blair's first pro game read 13 points and 10 rebounds, including three offensive, in 22 minutes.
"I'm not here to score, I'm here to play," he said. "I've been going a good job of preparing myself to come in and rebound, and I feel good. I think I played good. I went out there to rebound. The points just happened."
Blair just happened to fall in the Spurs' lap. Projected by many as a possible lottery-worthy talent after deciding to leave school as a sophomore, knee concerns sent Blain spiraling out of the first round. Specifically, he's missing the ACL in both knees.
An MRI done during the scouting combine in Chicago revealed the unique condition. Blair had surgeries to repair both ACLs in high school and hasn't had any issues since. He doesn't play with a brace on either knee and, if not for the test, wouldn't give the situation a second thought.
"I'm not worried about that," he said. "The knee problems are over."
Twenty-nine other teams felt differently about his medical prospects. As much as San Antonio is credited for pulling off a Draft steal, picking Blair was a no-brainer. General manager R.C. Buford admitted as much, adding that the team never expected the Big East player of the year to still be on the board seven picks into the second round.
Blair has found himself in the enviable spot of joining a title contender that had a need for frontcourt bulk behind Tim Duncan. Along with the recent signing of Antonio McDyess, Blair will be playing behind and learning from two of the premier power forwards of the last decade-plus.
"It doesn't matter what happened in the Draft," Blair said. "I went when I went and I ended up being on a team with great players, great coaches and great fans. I'm not complaining about it."
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