DeJuan Blair was back in Pittsburgh for a few days while his basketball camp was happening. Blair lends his name to the camp and makes appearances, but leaves to operations to those that know what they are doing. That said, he was there each day and had fun.
“It was pretty cool,” said Anthony Pettko, 10, of Mt. Lebanon, wearing the No. 45 San Antonio Spurs jersey of his favorite NBA player. “A couple of my friends got to play him one-on-one. He took it easy on them.”
Blair, the former Pitt star who just finished his rookie season with the Spurs, is hosting his own youth basketball camp at Robert Morris University.
The four-day camp, run by Five-Star Basketball, opened Tuesday for boys and girls ages 9 through 18.
“It was amazing,” Blair said. “They couldn’t believe I was playing with them and interacting with them like I was. It was as fun for me as it was for them.”
Then it was time to head back to San Antonio briefly before heading to Vegas for NBA summer league — which starts today.
The only Spur to play in all 82 regular-season games last season, Blair was given a summer assignment by head coach Gregg Popovich: Develop a jumper, and learn how Spurs power forwards defend.
Summer league will seem a lot like summer school.
“Pop told me he wanted me to learn the four, and that’s what I want to do,” Blair said. “It’s all about developing, so the more I can play, the more I can get better.”
Not long after the Spurs were swept from the second round of the playoffs by the Suns, Blair was back in the gym working with Spurs shooting coach Chip Engelland.
“I’ve put a lot of time in, almost every day in the summer,” Blair said. “I’m just trying to get a shot to add on to my game and try to get quicker and try to get my body down.”
Blair had the option of going easier. Staying in San Antonio and just working with the coaches on developing his game. Instead Blair insisted on going to summer league.
Initially, the Spurs were leaning toward keeping Blair home to focus on individual workouts. Blair, an NBA All-Rookie selection last season, had other plans.
“He wanted to play,” said Dell Demps, the Spurs’ director of player personnel and de facto GM of the summer league team. “The one good thing about DeJuan is he wants to get better. For him to want to come play in this, I think it says a lot about his commitment to getting better.”
It’s not just a credit to Blair’s work ethic, but a smart move on his part to make sure he doesn’t find himself crowded out of the Spurs’ frontcourt. Tiago Splitter is finally joining the Spurs. That is addition to Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess, Matt Bonner and Blair. Minutes could be tougher this year.