I Got Me A New Team
This is why San Antonio keeps winning.
by Alan Paul
I’m more than a little surprised to say this, but I am now a San Antonio Spurs fan. Oh, I’m not turning my back on the Pistons, who I’ve been rooting for since I started at the University of Michigan in 1984 and was wowed by Isiah Thomas. That’s deep and it will stick, even as I watch the team struggle with Charlie V’s contract for the next few years.
But my Western Conference team is now the Spurs and that’s going to stick, I think. I’ve always admired the team even as I sort of hated them (going back mostly to the ’05 Finals). But they now have the two players who have been by far my favorites over the last few years: Antonio McDyess and DeJuan Blair.
‘Dyess was just awesome for the Pistons all throughout his stay and there were quite a few times, most notably during some of the Playoff meltdowns when he seemed point blank like the only player on the team who gave a damn. He just played with so much heart, determination and smarts. I also continue to admire the way he came back from his knee injuries and the way he completely changed his game — from being an insanely athletic high-flyer to a heady, tough inside-out player. What’s not to like about the guy?
And Blair was as much fun to watch as anyone I ever remember during his two years at Pitt – the team I grew up loving through some really bleak years. Blair played the game with joy and passion, he continually improved, he rose to the occasion for the biggest games, he never backed down from anyone and it seemed obvious to me by last spring that despite his tweener height and scary girth, he was going to be a dominant low post player in the NBA. Dominant, not adequate.
So I was shocked when he fell into the second round of the draft. I know that he is too short and too fat and he doesn’t have knee ligaments and I understand that all of those things represent a significant risk for a GM who has to commit millions of dollars into him, but come on. This is a league that has given $20 million/year multi-year deals to Zach Randolph, Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis. Does anyone really think that Blair’s knees make him a bigger risk than Hasheem Thabeet – taken second despite being bitchslapped repeatedly by the 8-inch shorter Blair during college? Did it really make sense to consider Blair an unacceptable risk but for everyone to proclaim Jordan Hill a lottery steal because he has so much “upside potential”? Did Joe D really think that he was going to get more out of not just Austin Daye but also DaJuan Summers? Do Jeff Pendergrath or Dante Cunningham, taken before Blair in the second round, really have better chances of success?
I jut thought it was a moronic, conservative way for so many teams in need of so much help. And when the Spurs picked him up, I signed on with San Antonio. And now DB will have the opportunity to mentor under McDyess and Duncan. So far, so good. In his NBA debut last night, Blair scored 14 on 7-10 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds in 23 minutes. He had 5 offensive rebounds and 3 assists, including at least one sweet full-court outlet pass. He looked exactly like he did at Pitt, and that’s what I expected after seeing the way he took on challenges. One game does not a season make, of course, but I have a new team to follow now.