DeJuan Blair will be thrust into the playoff spotlight for the Spurs with Tiago Splitter out indefinitely because of a sprained ankle, and Blair sees the opportunity as an audition for other clubs, observes Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News. The 24-year-old, who'll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, thinks "the better situation" for him will be to sign with another team that can expand his role.
The stance is one that Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors predicted Blair would take when he examined the power forward's free agent stock last summer. Blair saw declines in just about every category this season, as his minutes and games started both hit career lows. When he did see the floor this year, he was less efficient than in the past, notching a 14.6 PER compared to the 17.5 PER he posted over his first three seasons. Blair appeared a likely trade candidate before the deadline this season, but according to Harvey, the Spurs were in no rush to trade him, in part because of his paltry $1.054MM salary. The team also believes he's shown increased maturity off the court, Harvey writes.
Unlike many other fourth-year players, the Spurs won't have the right to match offers for Blair in free agency this summer because he was originally a second-round draft choice. Second-rounders become eligible for unrestricted free agency after only three years in the league. I'm not sure the Spurs, despite their affection for Blair, would be likely to try to bring him back either way, but unrestricted free agency will allow him to make a clean break if he so chooses. He could have plenty of suitors, since the Hawks, Raptors, Pistons, Celtics, Heat, Blazers and Warriors were all linked to Blair before the deadline this year.
Blair thinks the Spurs would have traded him if they could have found the right deal, but the consensus among other teams at the deadline was that the Spurs' asking price was too high.