Blair continues to toggle with Tiago in a reserve role

By Jeff McDonald

ATLANTA — One game after not playing at all in the first half, DeJuan Blair was back as the Spurs’ second-unit center in Tuesday’s 97-90 victory over Atlanta.

Rookie Tiago Splitter was back to taking a DNP-CD.

Blair responded with a performance that was solid, but not spectacular, logging seven points and five rebounds in 13:06.

“My role is just to be ready at all times,” Blair said. “Because you never know.”

Blair admits not knowing hasn’t been easy over the past month, after he went from starting the first 53 games of the season to earning sporadic minutes off the bench.

“With the change in the lineup, I go back to thinking again — what do I do?” Blair said. “I’ve got to get that out of my head, somehow.”

Blair said Spurs coaches have offered him one standard piece of advice: Be a pro.

Asked what that means to him, Blair repeated himself: “Just be ready.”

For the season, Blair is averaging 8.7 points and 7.3 rebounds as a starter, and 6.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 14 games as a sub.

“Bench minutes are something you have to get used to,” guard George Hill said, “but I think he’s handling it well.”

Asked after Tuesday’s game how he thought Blair was handling his new role, coach Gregg Popovich chose his words carefully.

“DeJuan’s working at it,” he said.

POP, MEET RED: Tuesday’s victory gave Popovich 795 for his career, matching Boston’s Red Auerbach for second on the NBA’s all-time wins list with one team.

Jerry Sloan, who retired in February after racking up 1,127 wins in Utah, is first.

Even though he grew up in Argentina, Manu Ginobili is aware of the magnitude of Popovich’s feat.

“Red Auerbach is a myth in the NBA, he’s huge,” Ginobili said. “I’m glad for Pop. He’s a great coach. He deserves big honors.”

POP PRAISES WORM: The man who traded Dennis Rodman from San Antonio gives his recent election to the Hall of Fame two thumbs up.

“I think it’s great,” said Popovich, who inherited the mercurial Rodman when he took over as Spurs general manager in 1994. “He’s one of the top rebounders we ever had, and the rest of his game was probably even better than we all thought. He’s been important to teams winning championships. In that sense, he deserves it.”

Rodman, who played two productive but tumultuous seasons with the Spurs in 1993-94 and 1994-95, was announced Monday as part of the Hall’s 2011 induction class. Rodman averaged 17.3 rebounds his first season in San Antonio and 16.8 his second, and was an integral part of a team that lost to Houston in the 1995 Western Conference finals.

But Rodman’s flamboyant personality clashed with coaches, management and players. After the 1995 season, Popovich dealt him to Chicago for Will Perdue.

Rodman still holds Spurs franchise rebounding records for a game (32) and a season (1,367 in 1993-94).

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