The Dallas Mavericks have acquired many players this offseason who have a chip on their shoulder. When asked by a fan during the team’s introductory press conference last week which game he had circled on his calendar, DeJuan Blair had a very simple answer.
“The Spurs,” Blair said.
Dallas is hoping Blair, a 6-foot-7, 265-pound big man, has a chip big enough to bring a dose of nastiness to the Mavs. Blair fell into the second round of the 2009 draft because of his history of knee troubles, but he proved to be a relative steal for the San Antonio Spurs.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban already feels a sense of determination in Blair.
“DeJuan already knows when we’re playing the Spurs,” Cuban said. “We already know what DeJuan is going to do to the Spurs. It’s going to be a beautiful thing.”
Blair, 24, averaged 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game during his four seasons in San Antonio. For a multitude of reasons, the bruiser fell out of the team’s rotation, averaging just 5.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 14 minutes per game last season.
The writing was on the wall for Blair as he logged less than 18 minutes of game action in the seven-game series against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
“I don’t think we would’ve come up short if I would have played,” Blair said. “It’s just a lot of motivation to see everything. Going through those two weeks (of the Finals), it was the best two weeks of my life. I definitely want to get back, and I think we’ve got the team to do it.”
Whether he’s taking a shot at his former team is irrelevant. Blair, like any player in the NBA, feels he can make a difference for a team. With an opportunity to move down the street and play with the Mavs, Blair represents a player the team needed, based on the turnover from the previous season.
“DeJuan was a really important acquisition for us because Elton Brand didn’t return,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “We need that physical (butt)-kicker to put out there and be an enforcer for us.”
Both Brand and Blair have made the most of what they have, and neither are afraid to mix it up. The Mavs would be thrilled if they got a younger version of Brand in the form of Blair, who is 10 years younger.
With defense and rebounding a major area of need for the Mavs, Blair and his career average of 11.1 rebounds per 36 minutes would go a long way in alleviating that issue.
Despite being with the Spurs from 2009 to 2013, Blair still hasn’t won a championship. That’s another driving force for the new Mav. Whether it was intentional or not, the Mavs have acquired new players who are chasing their first championship, much like the 2011 roster.
A motivated Blair could certainly help the Mavs get back into the playoffs. No matter who the opposition is, it may not be a bad idea for him to have a case of blurred vision and believe he’s facing his former team every night.