When he went from the courts at Schenley High School to Petersen Events Center at Pitt, DeJuan Blair moved less than a mile between dribbles. He left Pitt after his sophomore season and went more than 1,500 miles when the San Antonio Spurs drafted him.
Now, he bides his time focusing on improvement, not knowing how far from home he could be next season, his fourth in the NBA.
"My game is a lot more mature compared to a lot of younger guys because of the team I'm on," Blair said on the sideline of the DeJuan Blair Youth Basketball Camp at Aquinas Academy in Hampton.
"They never let me mess up or make mistakes. It's been a great experience. I would love to spend the rest of my career there, but like I keep saying, it's a business."
Blair has been forced to embrace the business side of basketball more this summer than any previous year thanks to the way his season ended for the third year in a row -- a minor reserve role in the playoffs. In his three seasons playing alongside Tim Duncan, Blair has averaged more than 20 minutes per game in the regular season. In the past season, he started 62 of 66 games.
Yet in the playoffs, it can hardly be said Blair plays alongside Duncan. He has averaged nine minutes per playoff game, bottoming out with 7.6 minutes per game this past postseason. Blair has yet to start an NBA playoff game and has never left the bench in twice as many games as in the regular season.
"It's tough, not even playing," he said. "I kept my teammates into it, kept them going. Once I got my time, I used the best of my minutes. ... Last year was last year, just like the year before was the year before.
"It's all the same thing. I'm working really hard to not have the issues at the end of the year, keep my body right, get my shot and just be a pro."
Blair's offseason improvements could land him a more prominent role somewhere other than San Antonio. He has one more year on his rookie contract, but indications are the Spurs are considering trading Blair after advancing to the Western Conference final without needing much from him. The Spurs signed forward Boris Diaw to a two-year contract this summer. Diaw started all 14 postseason games in 2012 after arriving in San Antonio via a midseason trade.
"Hopefully, I stay a Spur, but if it doesn't happen, life moves on," Blair said. "They've got me on the trade market and they'll do the best to get me in the greatest situation possible."
Blair showcased his talents for many NBA executives this summer as a part of the Select Team, which challenged the U.S. Olympic team in Las Vegas. Often considered an undersized power forward at 6 feet 7, for much of the camp Blair played at the small forward position, guarding the likes of Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.
"It was wonderful," he said of the challenge. "I lost about 16 pounds, and I'm getting my shot. Once I can drain that 15-footer and get my body toned up, it's going to be great.
"Hopefully I'll be on the next [Olympic team]."
Douglas Farmer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @D_Farmer. First Published August 7, 2012 4:15 AM