Former Pitt standout DeJuan Blair made his return to the Petersen Events Center as a member of the San Antonio Spurs. They played the Cleveland Cavaliers and, man, was it good that he showed up. They announced the crowd of 5,000+ and to be honest, it looked like the actual turnout was only about half that. Maybe I'm just bad at estimating crowd size, but the building didn't look anything close to almost half full. The entire upper deck was empty and I'm assuming they just let everyone sit in the lower level. And that lower level only looked about half full to me. Most of the people were there for Blair and I would have loved to have seen how many tickets they would have sold if the Cavs were playing, say, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Not only did the Spurs play without their core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Richard Jefferson, I didn't even see anyof them. Only a few rows off the court, I had a pretty good view and didn't see them on the bench - that was kind of a disappointment. I go to these games every year and have seen stars sit out - but never an entire team like the Spurs (although last year's Dallas Mavericks team sat a lot of players, too). Last year, the Cavs even played Lebron and Shaq well into the third quarter.
That said, I follow the NBA pretty closely and didn't mind watching some of the younger stars - J.J. Hickson could be a star and also appearing were Manny Harris from Michigan, James Anderson from OK State, and Samardo Samuels from Louisville.
Anyway, Blair was, as reported, much slimmed down. Still a pretty big guy, though and he really got up and down the court much better than I'd ever seen him do at Pitt. It seemed like he missed a lot of shots and the box score confirmed my suspicion: he was 3-11 from the field. I don't think he looked nervous, but he definitely missed some easier shots in the paint. He was still the best player for the Spurs, finishing with nine points, eleven rebounds, five assists, and a block.
"I never left," Blair said before Thursday night's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. "This is real special. It shows something in the Spurs, what they've got (invested) in me."
It's no wonder the Spurs made a special trip to Blair's hometown for the second-year pro, who moved into their starting lineup earlier this preseason.
By the way, the Cavs ended up winning 106-80.