DeJuan Blair Plays But Lack Of Time Draws Questions For Gregg Popovich

DeJuan Blair finally saw some playing time against Oklahoma City (Photo by Larry W. Smith/Pool/Getty Images)

I have to admit to being fascinated with DeJuan Blair's borderline incredulous lack of playing time for the Spurs in the playoffs after being a starter for most of the season. The former Pitt star hasn't only played sparingly, but has practically dropped off the face of the earth in the NBA playoffs this year for the Spurs.

His lack of playing time has plenty of people wondering exactly what's going on. Gregg Doyel at CBS Sports is one of them:

I tried, of course. I tried for nearly a week, asking Popovich every chance I got, "Why isn't DeJuan Blair playing?" I didn't just ask after the Spurs started losing games, though I did that as well. But I also asked after the Spurs won Game 2 to take a 2-0 series edge, noting to Popovich that the Spurs were winning so it wasn't a second-guess so much as it was an honest question:

Why isn't DeJuan Blair playing?

He wouldn't say, his non-answer all but saying, Who are you?

ESPN Affiliate blog 48 Minutes of Hell also is confused:

Well, it took Gregg Popovich four quarters too long to play DeJuan Blair instead of Tiago Splitter. The series is now tied 2-2. This is probably the stuff of a standalone post, but Blair is better suited to bother the Thunder. Splitter is an easy cover for OKC.

...

Splitter’s minutes need to go to Blair for more reasons than I can discuss in a Margin, but you’ll have to trust me. Blair is the obvious play. Again, the math doesn’t lie.

The good news (and we'll get to the bad news in a bit) is that Blair has at least gotten off the pine in the past two games against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Playing on the road, Blair saw his first action of the series in the third game on Thursday, logging ten minutes. Blair did quite a bit with his time with ten points and snagging six rebounds. Blair finished that up with a much more modest two-point two-rebound effort on Saturday in ten more minutes, but all in all, he's at least helped the team. He is 6-9 from the field in those two games and added a block and a steal with zero turnovers.

Still, it doesn't look like Blair is going to get significant minutes just yet ... here's why.

In that third game, Blair didn't get in until the Spurs were trailing by more than 20 points in the fourth quarter. Popovich was either trying to rest his veteran team, was so fed up with the job they'd done to that point, or both. Blair was basically seeing only garbage time in a blowout loss - not exactly encouraging.

In the fourth contest, Blair again entered for the first time in the second half, making his debut in the third quarter. The team was down by 14, but he helped spark a Spurs rally as the team pulled to within four. Over the last five minutes of the quarter, Blair scored a basket, grabbed a rebound, blocked a shot, collected a steal, and drew a charge. Hard to be much more productive than that. Still, Blair didn't get minutes in crunch time, checking out for the final time with nearly eight minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The snap reaction is that the team lost both games, but Blair did only positive things and wasn't the reason for those losses. Both also came on the road to Oklahoma City, who is undefeated at home in the playoffs this season.

What's the rest of the series hold for Blair? Hard to tell based on the way he's been sporadically used throughout the postseason, but since he came into both games fairly late, hard to see him getting much of a chance. I'd love to know what Blair's thinking through all of this.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt football and basketball.

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