Two months in Russia gave DeJuan Blair a lot of time to reflect about his NBA career.
Blair’s first two seasons with the Spurs have been marked with some monster scoring and rebounding games, along with the predictable defensive busts of a young player that would earn him a regular spot in Gregg Popovich’s doghouse.
But after some pointed comments shortly after the season from Popovich about Blair needing to grow up, it appears the third-year forward has taken the admonition to heart.
It led him to play briefly with the Russian team Krasnye Krylya Samara. But any production with that team was secondary to the chance away from friends and family that provided him with a chance to reflect about his career.
“It wasn’t good being away from the NBA, but it was good to be alone,” Blair said. ”Just being over there in that environment, I thought a lot, I grew up a lot.
“I felt it was a great decision on my part. It wasn’t just about money, it was about staying in shape and getting better. I think I got something out of it.”
Blair appears noticeably thinner after a summer of extensive work. After battling his weight last season, his frame appears more like the one that enabled him to be a dominant power forward at Pittsburgh while in college.
“Over in Russia I’ve been doing a lot of push-ups and running on the court. Just trying to stay in shape,” Blair said.
But his sleeker frame has prompted several double-takes from his teammates and coaches when he arrived for training camp last week.
“I know everybody was expecting me to come back, however they were expecting me, but it’s just fun when everybody sees me and goes ‘Wo, look at DeJuan.,’ ” Blair said. “I’m just trying to turn a lot of things into muscle and become that vet that I want to be.”