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The Maturation of DeJuan Blair

By Jeff Koch on January 21, 2011.

New York 92, San Antonio 101  //  37-6  //  1st in the West

DeJuan Blair is starting to become the player we all thought he would be after his fantastic rookie campaign.

This is a scary prospect. Think about this: the team with the best record in the league had a starting center who produced very little (7.5 ppg and 6.6 rpg so far this season) and played very little (2o mpg). With DeJuan Blair coming to life, we may have just added a starting center who can score 15-20 points a night and grab 8-15 rebounds a night. Over the last 5 games, he is averaging 27 mpg while scoring 13 points and grabbing 9 rebounds per game. He’s had 3 recent games of 18 and 13, 22 and 11, and 18 and 13.

And the numbers don’t even tell the whole story. With his soft, quick hands and relentless hustle, he creates havoc on both ends of the court, gives the team extra possessions with steals and offensive rebounds, and gobbles up defensive rebounds to end defensive possessions. He has an innate understanding of spacing and how to use his body, which allows him to play big inside despite his diminutive (for an NBA starting center) size. And yet for such a big body, he often moves with grace and lightness.

And all he needed to do was stop thinking and embrace his flaws. It’s a delicate balance for athletes, the line between head and heart. Some players are so cerebral that the brain just controls everything seamlessly (Duncan); some players are so gifted that both traits blend and blur (Ginobili). But with a player like Blair, it is really is better for him to let go and just play. He had such a successful rookie year because Coach Pop, in his words, just let him play and tried not to screw him up. This year, Blair’s been trying so hard to be great, that he had been screwing himself up.

Let’s hope that he’s finally found that balance and is going to start leading with his heart. He’s got an awfully big one, and when he plays with it in control, he’s a pretty fantastic player.

Oh, and that Tim Duncan fellow had a pretty good game, too (21 pts, 16 reb, 8 ast, 5 blocks are you kidding me?!?)…for a washed-up has been.

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