DALLAS — It’s a new day and a new opportunity for former San Antonio Spurs big man DeJuan Blair.
After seeing his playing time in San Antonio significantly cut from Year 2 to Year 4, Blair headed to the Spurs’ in-state rival with a chip on his shoulder as he joined the Dallas Mavericks’ front line during free agency. The undersized post presence now hopes to crack Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation, looking to improve upon career averages of 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per outing.
“It’s a role that I’ve been looking for, for a long time, and I think they’re going to give me my chance here,” Blair said in a recent interview with Mavs.com as he preps for the upcoming season. “I think I’m going to do big things. I’m ready and I’m excited.
“I just don’t care about how tall you are and things like that,” he added. “God gave everybody their own talent, so he didn’t make me tall but he made me tough to go at the tall dudes, so I’m all good.”
Blair, who started 65 of his 81 games during the 2010-11 campaign, saw his time on the court trimmed last season while Spurs coach Gregg Popovich opted to utilize center Tiago Splitter over the former Pittsburgh standout alongside perennial All-Star power forward Tim Duncan. That led Blair to Dallas, where he’ll try to make an immediate impact while finding himself on the other end of the Southwest Division rivalry.
Looking to get the most out of the 6-foot-7, 270-pounder, the Mavs will also try to replicate Blair’s third season, when he averaged a career-best 9.5 points and 5.5 boards while starting 62 of 64 games during the lockout-shortened ’11-12 schedule. However, with 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki occupying the power forward spot in the first unit and veteran Samuel Dalembert expected to assume the starting center position, Blair may have to work his way into the mix with the second unit similar to the departing Elton Brand and alongside the recently re-signed Brandan Wright.
That shouldn’t be a problem, according to Carlisle and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, as Blair becomes the team’s new enforcer in the middle of the paint.
“DeJuan was a really important acquisition for us, because Elton Brand did not return, and we need that physical [tail-kicker] to put out there and be an enforcer for us. So, that was really key,” Carlisle explained.
“DeJuan is going to put a hurt on people and really make them pay attention to him offensively and defensively,” Cuban added, “and so it will be interesting.”