DALLAS — Although there is a 6-foot-10, 240-pound void in the middle of the Dallas Mavericks’ lineup with big man Brandan Wright sidelined indefinitely, there is also another big body hungry for the opportunity to step in and contribute.
Joining the Mavericks this offseason as a free agent after spending his first four seasons with the Southwest Division rival San Antonio Spurs, DeJuan Blair will try to shoulder most of the burden with Wright sidelined for an unknown period of time after sustaining a small, non-displaced fracture to his left shoulder last week. The undersized Blair now hopes to make an immediate impression on Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle by taking full advantage of the opportunity in front of him.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for me and for me to learn the system more and to learn both the 4 and the 5,” Blair said as he gets more familiar with his new surroundings. “It’s a pretty good opportunity. We’re going to miss him, but I’ll try to take up all the slack.”
He added: “It’s going to be a lot of work, but at the same time it’s what I always wanted. And I hated it had to come like this, but that’s how the ball rolls.”
Blair started 65 games for the Spurs at center during the 2010-11 season and 62 the following campaign before falling out coach Gregg Popovich’s rotation last year. With Wright out, the 6-foot-7 former Pittsburgh standout will now assume most of the backup center minutes behind starter and fellow newcomer Samuel Dalembert during the preseason. But Blair could also see more action while subbing in behind 11-time All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki as Carlisle tries to utilize the skilled big man in a multitude of ways this upcoming season.
“He’s doing well,” Carlisle said of Blair’s early impressions after averaging 6.0 points and 4.5 rebounds in the Mavs’ first two exhibition games. “He’s having to learn both positions, which is going to be challenging for anybody, ’cause we don’t have a lot of guys that play both big spots and they’re vastly different. You know, Brandan Wright does. Sarge [Bernard James] does a little bit just so we can have him be able to play it in practice, but DeJuan has got to be able to play both positions in games and he knows that. He’s putting in extra work.”
“I mean, I can play both,” Blair said after yearning for a chance to play power forward behind future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan in San Antonio. “It’s really no big deal. I’m going to be playing it on and off during the season, too, so its going to be pretty fun and challenging.”
Note: The Mavericks (1-1) return to action Monday night at American Airlines Center, hosting the Orlando Magic. The game will air locally on TXA 21 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.