Spurs notebook: Blair still attempting to fit in

Though he expressed doubt in July that the Spurs valued his services and no doubt he was being shopped to other teams, forward-center DeJuan Blair insisted he was not surprised to be back in training camp.

Blair’s doubt was fueled by his disappearance from the Spurs’ playing rotation in the playoffs, when he logged just 76 minutes in 10 of the club’s 14 postseason games.

During his participation in the U.S. Olympic team’s training camp in Las Vegas — Blair and teammate Kawhi Leonard were on the select team of young NBA players that helped prepare Team USA for the London Olympics — Blair told the Express-News he felt “torn down” by a postseason demotion that followed a starting role in 62 regular-season games. He was nearly certain the team would trade him, though he stressed that he did not ask for a trade.

There was no trade, and Monday, Blair reported to camp in decent condition and vowed to do what he can to regain a prominent role.

“I’ve got to go and try to figure out what this team wants from me and what they need from me,” he said. “I’ve got to use that as fuel to start my engine and just keep going. Right now, I’m just worrying about my body and getting ready for training camp.”

Asked directly if he preferred ending up elsewhere, Blair was evasive.

“I’m here,” he said.

They’re free: Reserve big man Tiago Splitter did his best Tuesday to ignore the nightmare of his horrid foul shooting in last season’s playoffs as he discussed one of the holes in his game. After a season of steady improvement from the foul line — he finished the regular season at 69.1 percent, a big improvement from the 58.2 percent he shot in seven seasons in the Spanish League — Splitter made only 16 of 43 postseason foul shots (37.2 percent).

“I’m always going to work on that,” he said. “Last season, I improved way more than the first season and struggled a little bit in the end. It was more confidence stuff than other things.”

Sloan visits: Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan, winner of 1,221 games as coach of the Bulls and Jazz, was a visitor at Tuesday’s first session of training camp. Long a role model for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Sloan retired 54 games into the 2010-11 season.

Open scrimmage: The Spurs will hold an open intrasquad scrimmage at the ATT Center tonight. The public is invited free of charge.

Tipoff is scheduled at 7:30 p.m., with fan activities starting at 6:30 p.m.

There’s a preseason game on tap Saturday at the ATT Center against Italian League power Montepaschi Siena, winner of six straight Italian League titles.


Twitter: @Monroe_SA

Key dates

Today: Intrasquad scrimmage (free admission, open seating) — 7:30 p.m., ATT Center

Saturday: First preseason game — vs. Montepaschi Siena, 7:30 p.m., ATT Center

Oct. 31: Regular-season opener — @Hornets, 7 p.m., KENS NBA TV

Nov. 1: Home opener — vs. Thunder, 8:30 p.m., TNT

Spurs’ renewed defensive effort takes shape

By Mike Monroe

There are some strange new markings guiding the Spurs’ renewed emphasis on defense, reminders to the team’s interior defenders about how to approach certain defensive matchups.

At each end of the three full courts inside the team’s practice facility, magenta-colored lines mark the sides of trapezoids that delineate an area in which defenders are reminded to play traditional post defense — squared-up and keeping their bodies between offensive players and the basket.

The baseline and free-throw line form two sides of the trapezoid. The magenta lines run from the corner of each baseline and sideline diagonally to the sides of the free-throw line.

Curiously, the magenta markings are inscribed with the letters K and M because the club is calling the area inside the trapezoid the Karl Malone zone, homage to the Hall of Fame Utah Jazz power forward who did the bulk of his scoring inside the delineated area.

“If you’re on the line or closer, you play post defense,” Spurs forward Matt Bonner explained. “If you’re on the other side, you play perimeter defense. It determines how you position your feet.”

How did Bonner know that the shape of the Karl Malone zone was a trapezoid?

“I learned that from my daughter’s Sesame Street shape book,” he said.

Jazzy influences: In addition to having a daily reminder of Malone, the Spurs last week were under the observation of another Jazz Hall of Famer, retired coach Jerry Sloan.

Long a favorite of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Sloan spent several days at camp and sat in R.C. Buford’s box in the stands at ATT Center to observe Wednesday’s intra-squad scrimmage.

“Having Coach Sloan here was really special, not just for me, but our players,” Popovich said. “They all respect him so much. Being able to just talk basketball and be around the guy was really special for me, because every time the season begins everybody is doing their own thing with their own team and you don’t get to do that. Being able to go to dinner with him, to have him in our coaches meetings and add to what we’re doing is really a win for us. I think he enjoyed it, too.”

First cut: The Spurs waived point guard Sherron Collins, the former Kansas star who played 20 games for the Charlotte Bobcats in 2010-11.

With a backcourt that includes five other players with guaranteed contracts who are either point guards or combination guards — Tony Parker, Gary Neal, Patrick Mills, Cory Joseph and Nando De Colo — the odds were stacked against him.

Nineteen players remain on the training camp roster.

Twitter: @Monroe_SA

Rivers wants to build the Celtics with the Spurs as a template

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

There assuredly are a lot of copycats around the NBA. Gregg Popovich said only minutes after the Spurs were eliminated from the playoffs that he couldn’t wait to pluck a few ideas from those teams still playing.

Former Spurs player and television analyst Doc Rivers, a close friend of Popovich, has seen a few things with his old franchise he’d like to replicate with Boston.

And now armed with an NBA-best $7 million yearly contract, Rivers will be aiming to rebuild the Celtics like he’s seen the Spurs and the Utah Jazz do over recent seasons.   

“I look at the Utah situation and Jerry Sloan,” Rivers said on his weekly radio show on Boston radio station WEEI and . “And I look at the situation in San Antonio (with Popovich). (Boston general manager) Danny (Ainge) and I were talking — those are the two more stable franchises, because they’ve had the same coach and the same GM and the same ownership. They’ve been able to draft well, scout well, pick the right players for the system because they’ve known the system. When we talked about it, that’s what we want to do.”

It says something about the Spurs and their respect around the league when the coach of a franchise that has qualified for the last three NBA Finals would like to build his team after one that hasn’t advanced out of the second round in that same period.

Rivers has seen the Spurs franchise built and maintained from the inside as one of the league’s most successful franchises over the Tim Duncan era.

And now, he’d like to do the same thing with his team.