Spurs’ Blair mulls deal with Russia

By Jeff McDonald

DeJuan Blair could become the next and most prominent Spurs player to take his talents overseas during the NBA lockout.

Blair, who started 65 games at center for the Spurs last season, has an offer on the table from the Russian team Krasnye Krylya, his agent, Happy Walters, said Wednesday. All it is awaiting is Blair’s signature.

“If he signs it, then he’ll go,” Walters said. “The ball’s in our court.”

Should Blair opt to head to Russia, he would have some company abroad.

So far, 32 players who ended the 2010-11 season on an NBA roster have signed deals overseas. Among them are Spurs swingman Danny Green (Slovenia) and third-string point guard Chris Quinn (Russia).

According to the French publication Le Progres, All-Star point guard Tony Parker will join ASVEL, the French League team he co-owns, by mid-October if the lockout is still in progress.

Like all players with existing NBA contracts who aim to spend the lockout abroad, Blair’s deal in Russia would contain an out clause allowing him to return to the Spurs once the labor impasse is resolved.

Blair, 22, is under contract with the Spurs for the next two seasons at a total of $2.04 million, though only $500,000 of that figure is guaranteed. Blair would obtain insurance protecting his NBA contract against injury should he decide to play overseas, his agent said.

Walters said he expects Blair’s decision to come before the end of the week. If he accepts, Blair would leave for Samara — the sixth-largest city in Russia and Krasnye Krylya’s home base — next week.

With the lockout lumbering into its third month, any bit of on-court work would be welcome for Blair. Admitting a weakness for Whataburger, the 6-foot-7 Blair struggled with his weight last season, his second in the NBA, approaching 300 pounds at one point.

Blair averaged a career-best 8.3 points and seven rebounds but late in the season relinquished his starting job to Antonio McDyess, as coach Gregg Popovich chose to favor experience heading into the playoffs.

With the NBA locked out, and few other good options to play professional-level games, Walters views Russia as a good career-building move for Blair.

“He’s a young guy who wants to play,” Walters said. “It’s a way for him to stay in great shape, and at the same time get better. You’re not going to play 30 minutes a night and not get better.”

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