DeJuan Blair is seeing a decreased role in the NBA playoffs (Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE)
The San Antonio Spurs swept the Utah Jazz in their first-round series, so it's hard to argue with this, but former Pitt star DeJuan Blair has seen his minutes cut dramatically - and not due to injury.
Blair averaged about 21 minutes a game this season, but has seen those minutes cut in half during the series against the Jazz. He also only had As a result, his production has gone down as well. He averaged fewer than six points a game after scoring around ten in the regular season and his rebounds per contest have slipped from 5.5 to 3.5.
Blair's role has been limited so far in this opening series with Boris Diaw getting the starting nod. Depending on the Spurs' round two opponent, should they advance, things could flip right back, but it appears he'll be coming off the bench for the remainder of the Utah series.
While it's true he's not been starting, that doesn't really explain why he's playing less. In fact, Diaw is actually playing slightly fewer minutes than he did in the regular season (leave it to ESPN to leave that fact out), so there's more at work behind it.
For one thing, Blair's minutes have seen a steady decline all season long. He averaged about 24 minutes a game and by the end of the season, was down to around 20. Part of that was due to the team picking up Diaw in late March as Blair's been sharing time with him.
Most importantly, this is nothing new for Blair.
Blair has seen this tale before in each of his first two seasons with the Spurs. In each of those years, Blair has seen his minutes cut nearly in half in the playoffs. Gregg Popovich prefers to play the veterans a bit more and with all the rings that he's won, tough to argue with him.
The situation's got to be at least a little frustrating for Blair. He did average a career-low in rebounds this season, but career highs in points and assists. Blair is not only competing with Diaw (a power forward who does a little bit of everything), but also with Matt Bonner, who's extremely versatile and can step out and hit threes. Not exactly an ideal situation for him, but he's played significant minutes before and will again. The thing to remember is that he just turned 23. As long as he produces, the older he gets, the more postseason minutes he'll receive.