Posts Tagged ‘DeJuan Blair’

Heat, Spurs Still Virtual Strangers

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Both conference’s No. 1 teams made significant statements over the last two days.

It wasn’t just that the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs both convincingly knocked off their closest challengers. The greater message to the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder — and the rest of the league — is how they did it.

LeBron James is the runaway MVP candidate. He had an amazing streak of scoring at least 3o points and shooting 60 percent in six consecutive games. Yet, the Heat only needed 13 points (5-for-10 shooting), seven assists and six rebounds from him in trouncing the Pacers 105-91 on Sunday.

It can be argued that James creates such headaches for opposing defenses that it allows his teammates to run free. Sure, OK, but it had to be demoralizing to the Pacers, the NBA’s top-ranked field-goal percentage defense, to hold James to a baker’s dozen yet surrender 55.9 percent shooting from the field.

San Antonio earned its 105-93 victory Monday over the Thunder by having its two healthy members of the the Big Three — Tim Duncan (13 points, eight rebounds) and Manu Ginobili (12 points, four assists, 24 minutes) — make way for this big three: Tiago Splitter (21 points, 10 rebounds), Kawhi Leonard (17 points, three steals) and Danny Green (16 points, 4-for-4 on 3s).

The precision, depth and discipline of the Spurs was on full display in shooting 52.4 percent against the Thunder’s second-ranked field-goal percentage defense. San Antonio’s improving defense also cranked up, making it difficult on NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant (26 points, 7-for-13 FGs) and Russell Westbrook (25 points, 11-for-27), the leaders of the West’s second-highest scoring offense at more than 106 points a game.

Does this mean we’re headed for a Spurs-Heat Finals come June? Not necessarily. But what if? Which team would hold the advantage?

How can anyone really know? These two teams are virtual strangers.

Since James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces in the 2010-11 season, the Heat and Spurs have played four times and none of those games featured lineups that would go head-to-head in a Finals series.

The fourth and most recent meeting was the infamous go-home game on Nov. 31 at Miami when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sent his Big Three plus Green home. A steamed David Stern slapped San Antonio for $250,000 for pitting its reserves against the defending champs on national TV. The Heat won an entertaining game with a late comeback.

The three previous games were all blowouts (2-1 in favor of Miami) with a head-scratching average margin of defeat of 27.1 points. Two of those were played in the span of 10 days in March 2011, and the third was their lone meeting in last season’s lockout-shortened schedule, a 120-98 Heat win on Jan. 20, with Ginobili injured and Richard Jefferson and DeJuan Blair in the Spurs’ starting lineup.

Miami has yet to see the remodeled Spurs after they dealt Jefferson to Golden State for Stephen Jackson and added Boris Diaw. The Heat barely know Green, San Antonio’s leading 3-point bomber (although he did score 20 points off the bench on 6-for-7 3-point shooting in that game nearly 14 months ago).

Fortunately, the Spurs and Heat do meet again on March 31 at San Antonio. It might be our first real chance to assess how these two clubs match up.

Even then, Tony Parker might still be out with a sprained ankle. Either way, there will be plenty of intrigue if the Spurs and Heat, two virtual strangers, get together in June.

Spurs Breathe Easy As MRI Clears Duncan


HANG TIME, Texas — The citizens of San Antonio can go back to remembering the Alamo as the most tragic civic loss ever.

Tim Duncan will remain a part of the Spurs drive for a fifth NBA championship after an MRI showed no structural damage to his left knee. He has a sore knee, a mild right ankle sprain and is listed as day-to-day for his return to the lineup.

The 36-year-old Duncan had to be carried off the court by teammates DeJuan Blair and Stephen Jackson with 3:54 left in the second quarter Saturday night after Washington’s Martell Webster rolled into the back of legs following a missed shot.

Though TV cameras showed Duncan moving under his own power in the hallway of the AT&T Center and many of his teammates said they were encouraged to see Duncan walk out of the locker room without crutches following the game, there was going to be lingering doubt until a full exam was performed on Sunday.

It’s just the latest example of how everything can change in the blink of an eye. The Spurs have been cruising along comfortably all season with Duncan having one of the best showings in years. San Antonio currently has the best record in the NBA at 38-11, two games ahead of Oklahoma City and 5 1/2 better than defending champion Miami.

With Duncan in the middle, the Spurs are again legitimate contenders for the title. His loss would have realistically ended those dreams.

Duncan was making his return after sitting for four games with a sore left knee. Duncan said he suffered that injury after landing wrong at Philadelphia on Jan. 21.

Recently selected to his 14th All-Star Game, Duncan is averaging 17.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks with a 24.9 Player Efficiency Rating in his 16th NBA season.

The Spurs will be without Duncan as they start on their annual rodeo trip, a nine-game trek with the All-Star break in the middle that opens on Wednesday night in Minneapolis. Now that trip will be ever tougher without Duncan, at least in part.

But for a city that had been holding its collective breath, a huge sigh of relief. The championship chase is still on.

Duncan Injury Packs Worry For Spurs


SAN ANTONIO — As if they didn’t have enough to lug around on a nine-game trip that will keep them away from home for most of the month, now the Spurs have to pack concern about Tim Duncan’s health.

There was a collective gasp at the AT&T Center when Duncan went down with just over four minutes left in the second quarter and had to be carried off the floor by DeJuan Blair and Stephen Jackson. Then there was sigh of relief when teammates later saw him walk out of the locker room under his own power without crutches.

“He’s fine. He’s fine,” said Tony Parker. “It’s nothing big. I’m sure [coach Greg Popovich] is going to be very cautious about his knee and we’ll see. He was pretty positive.”

The early diagnosis was a sprained right ankle and sprained left knee. But, one week after Rajon Rondo walked away from what was first thought to be a minor injury and then found out that he’d torn his ACL and was lost for the season, the Spurs will not rest easy until Duncan undergoes an MRI.

“That was scary when you see that,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. “Those are always the ones you don’t want to see when a guy falls into you while your feet are planted on the ground. I just talked to his doctors and they said he is going to be fine. That was not a pretty thing to see.”

It was clear that Duncan’s injury affected the rest of the lineup. After building a 27-point lead in the first half, the Spurs lost focus and let the Wizards get as close as six points early in the fourth quarter.

“That’s going on through everybody’s mind …What’s happening?” Jackson said. “To have our best player go down like that, holding his knee and his ankle it’s frustrating.

“Nobody really seen him at halftime, because he was in [the training room] trying to figure out what’s wrong. I don’t really know the in’s and out’s of what happened, but I seen him walk out of here, so that’s always good.”

Washington’s Martell Webster drove to the hoop and had his shot blocked by the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard. After Webster went to the floor, he rolled from behind onto Duncan’s ankle and knee. The big man stayed down on the floor as play continued to the other end where Danny Green scored a layup. Parker then took a foul to stop the clock as the Spurs’ medical staff ran onto the floor.

Duncan was making his return after missing four straight games with a sore left knee. He had eight points, five rebounds and two assists in 13 minutes. Duncan had said that he could have returned for Wednesday’s game against Charlotte, but instead settled for three more days of rest. He’s averaging 17.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.74 blocked shots per game this season and was recently named to the Western Conference All-Star team for the 14th time in his 16-year NBA career.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Timmy like that,” Green said. “I’ve seen him hurt before, the bumps, the bruises. He usually gets right back up. I figured today he was feeling good leg-wise. When we started out, he was playing well, back in rhythm. Seeing him go down, feeling as well as I thought he felt, kind of sucks, not just for him, but for us. We’re gonna need him. On this nice little road trip, a guy like that could help.

“I didn’t get to see the play. I heard it was his knee and ankle at the same time, which seems kind of weird. I don’t know how it happened. I had never seen him get carried off the floor, so I hoped it wasn’t serious and that we would have him at least for part of this road trip.

“We seen him right after the game. He seemed OK. Timmy’s always optimistic. It didn’t seem like it [was serious], but you never know with Timmy. His expressions don’t really tell you what’s going on. He’s always optimistic. He’s one of the greatest guys ever to play this game because he’s a pretty tough guy. He’s played through some pain and some injury, so he’s probably not going to show you he’s hurt like that, even if it was serious. But I think he should be OK.”

Popovich On Splitter’s Rise: ‘It Helps Timmy A Lot’

HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — Is Tiago Splitter the most important player on the San Antonio Spurs?

OK, so nobody’s going to make that argument with a straight face, but consider this comment from coach Gregg Popovich: “He’s just healthy and getting consistent minutes, so that’s helping us. It helps Timmy a lot.”

Helping Timmy, as in 36-year-old Tim Duncan, is nothing to sneeze at, especially as the Spurs head into another back-to-back tonight at Milwaukee followed by Thursday’s game at New York.

Thirty-three games into his third NBA season, Splitter seems to have finally put a stranglehold on a starting job. He gives San Antonio a sturdy, 6-foot-11, 240-pound power forward to handle the inside dirty work while lessening the burden and creating space for the ageless Duncan, who is again putting together an All-Star-caliber season.

“I’m the kind of player who to win games sometimes doesn’t mean you are going to score or make all the plays in a game,” Splitter said Sunday before piling up 13 points and six rebounds in a blowout of the Dallas Mavericks. One night later he went 5-for-7 from the floor for 10 points plus a couple blocks in a rout of the Brooklyn Nets.

“The situation is good and that’s what I want to do, come in here, win games, help the team to win,” Splitter continued. “I think we have great offensive guys, everybody can score on this team, so it’s not about scoring every night — be consistent, do whatever Pop wants to do on the court, play intelligent.”

It’s been a slow build for the Brazilian, who turned 28 on New Year’s Day. He’s dealt with some nagging injuries while adjusting to life in the NBA and under Popovich’s unique tutelage. He’s played behind the now-retired Antonio McDyess and DeJuan Blair, who has bounced in and out of the starting lineup as well as the rotation the last few season, yet was Popovich’s choice to start at the onset of the season.

“I think every day you learn something with him. He is one of the greatest coaches ever,” Splitter said. “Of course, you understand how he thinks, how he understands the game, so it’s easier. It took some time. I took a year to figure out everything and last year I was totally different and felt like a player again last year.”

Now it’s up to Splitter to hold onto the job for the foreseeable future. As a starter he is averaging 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 25.0 minutes, about seven more minutes than he was logging as a reserve.

Where the brawny Splitter can really make a difference for San Antonio and give Timmy the most help is by taking on the brunt of defending the big boys in the West, such as Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Zach Randolph, LaMarcus Aldridge and Serge Ibaka.

“Somebody asked me a while back what has he improved in. I said nothing. He just hasn’t played,” Popovich said. “What he does for us now healthy is what he’s done in Europe for a lot of years. He’s been on championship teams over there. He’s a defender, a rebounder, a solid pick-and-roll player. He doesn’t have moves and he’s not a big offensive threat, but he’s every coach’s dream because he does everything so fundamentally sound.”

No, Splitter isn’t the most important player on the Spurs. But on a team that’s been considered too small up front to get out of the West, his importance can’t be understated either.

Banged-up Spurs Begin Six-Game Road Trip

HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — Five days ago the San Antonio Spurs were the picture of good health, one of just two NBA teams with a clean injury slate. Now, as they begin a six-game, 10-day road trip through the Eastern Conference, two key injuries have the Spurs plugging holes with D-League reinforcements.

Starting small forward Kawhi Leonard (knee) could return by the fifth game of the trip (at Orlando in a week) and reserve small forward Stephen Jackson (finger) will miss all of it, and more. Jackson is expected to be out four to six weeks after he fractured his right pinkie finger Monday night.

Combined, the pair averages 18.3 points and 9.7 rebounds. Beyond the stats, Leonard is a tough wing defender and he helps spread the floor offensively as a 3-point threat. The veteran Jackson obviously delivers jolts of energy and attitude at both ends of the floor.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich loves to rotate players and the injuries will make that more difficult to accomplish when most needed on a long road trip that winds through Boston, Indiana, Toronto, Washington, Orlando and finally Miami, and includes two back-to-backs. Through 11 games — with the Spurs quietly at 8-3 — Popovich has used 10 players for at least 16 minutes a game with only two players — Tim Duncan and Tony Parker — averaging at least 30 minutes (both are at a very reasonable 30.5).

“It hurts numbers-wise,” Duncan said following Monday’s loss home loss to the Clippers. “Obviously, what they mean to the team skill-wise and being out on the floor and making shots and all the rest of that stuff, numbers-wise we actually had some guys step up. Matty (Bonner) got back in there and played well. Nando (De Colo) got an opportunity, so we’re just going to have to keep shuffling and see what we get out of it.”

On Wednesday, the Spurs recalled guard Cory Joseph from their D-League affiliate in Austin and signed former draft pick James Anderson, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard who was playing for the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

But, old hands like Bonner, whose customary 20 minutes a game over the last four seasons has been sliced in half this season, in-and-out-of-favor DeJuan Blair and the inconsistent Tiago Splitter will have to pick up more minutes and help out the rejuvenated Duncan (18.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg) on the boards, the one area the Spurs collectively have lacked, ranking 24th in the league in rebounding differential and near the bottom in giving up offensive rebounds.

“Obviously we lose a lot of size with Jack and Kawhi, so that’s going to be a disadvantage for us at that 3-position,” Duncan said. “We’re going to ask them to do a lot more of that rebounding and rebound their area, but it’s on all of us. We know what we have to do. We know where we’re being hurt, and definitely the offensive glass is one of them.”

Election Day: ‘Barack To Barack’

Kendall Marshall, the rookie point guard of the Suns did not specify politics or not Tuesday night. But since he asked….

The NBA community was part of the Twitter traffic as President Barack Obama won re-election in a race that generated financial contributions from around the league, from players to coaches to owners to commisioner David Stern, for the Democratic incumbent and Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Royce White of the Rockets was poignant, DeJuan Blair of the Spurs celebrated, and Jason Richardson of the 76ers turned the phrase.

“Barack to Barack #Obama2012,” @jrich23 wrote as Obama closed in on a second consecutive White House win. (more…)

Duncan Quietly Returns To Spurs

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — As we endure another Dwightmare and recover from the shock of Steve Nash choosing to play with the rival Lakers, Tim Duncan‘s free agency has gone without fanfare.

Oh, you forgot that Duncan, the four-time champ and future Hall of Famer, was a free agent?

Other teams probably forgot too, because back in May, Duncan declared himself a “Spur for life.” And on Tuesday, Yahoo! Sports’ Johnny Ludden reports that Duncan and the Spurs have agreed on a new three-year contract about equal to the $34 million that the Celtics are giving Kevin Garnett. That would keep Duncan playing until 2015, when he turns 39.

Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears also tweeted out three important details about Duncan’s new deal: First, the deal is fully guaranteed. Second, the third year of the contract is a player options. And third, Duncan has a no-trade clause in this new contract.

The Spurs also have agreements in place to bring back guard Danny Green and big man Boris Diaw. So their playoff rotation will return intact and they might now see what they can get for DeJuan Blair.

The Spurs have done an excellent job of supplementing their veteran core with young role players, but Duncan is arguably still the most critical piece to the puzzle.

Blair Comes Cheap, Motivated

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — A lot of money is being thrown at free agent big men this summer.

Kevin Garnett is getting $34 million more from the Celtics. Roy Hibbert is getting a max deal from either the Blazers or Pacers. Omer Asik will be getting $25 million from the Rockets or Bulls. Ersan Ilyasova is getting $45 million from the Bucks. Ryan Anderson is getting about $35 million from the Hornets. And now it sounds like Brook Lopez is getting a max deal, whether he plays for the Nets or Magic next season.

So what would you say about the idea of paying $1.1 million for a big man who played almost 1,400 minutes for the best team in the league last season?

DeJuan Blair was a feel-good story for the San Antonio Spurs. He was taken 37th in the 2009 Draft and quickly became a contributor for a title contender, despite his lack of ACLs.

But Blair was replaced in the Spurs’ rotation by Boris Diaw late last season, and he played just 77 minutes in the playoffs. Then, there were reports that the Spurs might bring over Slovenian big man Erazem Lorbek next season, possibly pushing Blair further down the depth chart.

Lorbek looks to be re-signing with FC Barcelona, but Blair still thinks his days in San Antonio are numbered. (more…)

Spurs have to bring the nasty again

OKLAHOMA CITY – Guess who needs to get nasty again.

None of the Spurs are reprising the famous timeout call to arms from coach Gregg Popovich during Game 2, but they are noting that an attitude change is necessary heading into Game 4 of the Western Conference final tonight against the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena, a rally cry from a team that has a 2-1 lead in the series and wins in 20 of its last 21 games.

It’s not strange, it’s the Spurs. They have achieved a rare level of greatness – consistent success, sometimes championship success, through years of roster alterations and change in style of play – by refusing to settle for one loss every seven weeks or so. They are also historically stable, though, in a way that going back as the enemy into arguably the best home-court advantage in the league, as the Thunder try to tie the series, does not cause alarms.

The setting is not a concern. But the approach is, with the Spurs knowing they have to bring a different attitude tonight as part of the admission that Oklahoma City was more aggressive Thursday in Game 3.

“They were hitting first,” said Stephen Jackson, a reserve swingman acquired at the trade deadline specifically because he would bring more of that edge to the locker room. “They were way more aggressive, they were way more physical. They flat out wanted the game more than we did, and it was obvious from the jump of the game. We’ve got to match their intensity from the jump and be ready to play and we can’t expect our three stars (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili) just to bail us out every time.”


Deep Spurs Have Simple Plan: ‘Next!’

SAN ANTONIO – The cast on Tiago Splitter’s left wrist doesn’t mean he had an unexpected and violent meeting with the glass case of a fire extinguisher. It also doesn’t mean that alarm bells will be going off in the Spurs’ locker room if their center can’t be in the lineup for Game 2.

Boris Diaw will continue to start at center. But DeJuan Blair, who started 62 games at center during the regular season, will be the first big man off the bench. Blair entered the game when Splitter was ruled out for the second half of the series opener after getting hurt trying to break a fall. Blair played 10 minutes, scored five points and grabbed two rebounds.

“DeJuan Blair is ready to go,” said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. “He did a good job (in Game 1). He sat for a long time, but he came in and got right to it.”