MIAMI (AP)—San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich quickly pointed out that former Pitt and Schenley star DeJuan Blair only had one defensive rebound Sunday night.
“Not good enough,” Popovich said, barely keeping a straight face.
So far, Blair is showing the Spurs—and probably the rest of the NBA—that he’s certainly good enough. The rookie scored 28 points on 11 of 13 shooting, 15 of those points coming in the final 7 minutes, and the Spurs erased an 11-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to beat the Miami Heat 95-93 in a preseason game.
|MAKING AN IMPACT—Spurs’ rookie Dejuan Blair shoots as Miami’s Anthony Tolliver, (35) and Shavlik Randolph, (42) defend during preseason basketball action in Miami, Oct. 11.
“He’s a real mobile, agile player, even though he’s got the girth that he has,” Popovich said of the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Blair, who’s noticeably slimmer than he was playing college ball at Pittsburgh. “It’s a heck of a gift.”
The Heat were without several regulars, including reigning NBA scoring champion Dwyane Wade.
Blair’s steal and layup with 3 minutes left helped the Spurs take control, and further illustrated why he’s looked like the steal of the NBA draft so far in preseason. The 37th overall pick last June had 16 points and 19 rebounds in San Antonio’s only other preseason game so far.
“It’s just hard work and my teammates trusting in me and just trying to adjust to the system,” Blair said. “I’m not showing it, but it’s problems for me. Adjusting to the system is kind of hard, but I’m getting it.”
As Blair got dressed after the game, guard Keith Bogans was at the next locker, having a sandwich and some Doritos. Blair lamented that neither of those are among his culinary choices these days, as he tries to slim further down.
It’s paying off.
“He’s a character guy. He’s a quality guy,” Popovich said. “He’s a hard worker and obviously, he has a passion for the game.”