Before signing a one-year, prove-it deal with the Dallas Mavericks in the off-season, center DeJuan Blair spent the first four seasons of his career as a member of the San Antonio Spurs.
He returned during this first-round playoff series as a villain to the majority of Spurs fans because of his tough play and, most notably, a kick to the head of Tiago Splitter that earned him a one-game suspension.
Boos rained down on him nearly every time he touched the ball. But when Blair walked off the floor after Sunday’s 119-96 series-ending loss, he walked into the waiting arms of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and center Tim Duncan.
Both wanted to let him know how proud they were of him for the way he competed — though Popovich in more colorful language.
“It makes you feel good. I still have respect for all of them,” Blair said after Sunday’s game. “Things didn’t work out here, I had to go somewhere else.”
Blair hopes he doesn’t have to go anywhere else next year. He believes he proved himself worthy of a multi-year contract extension from Dallas.
He averaged 6.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in the series. More important, he gave the Mavericks much needed toughness and intensity.
“I think I did a good job doing that this season and this series,” Blair said. “I just worked hard and played like I know how. Hopefully, I can come back to Dallas and we can get another shot at it.”