Rookie Anderson pleased with first NBA start

By Mike Monroe

When Spurs coach Gregg Popovich discovered that Richard Jefferson would not be available for Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings, he gave James Anderson the first starting assignment of his NBA career.

Though it was a bit of a surprise to the rookie from Oklahoma State, Anderson felt he put in a solid effort against the Kings at the ATT Center. In 18 minutes, 12 seconds, he had three points, two rebounds and two assists in the Spurs’ 108-103 victory.

Jefferson had started the first 64 games this season, but was scratched from the lineup Friday to attend to personal business. He is expected to rejoin the team for tonight’s game in Houston against the Rockets.

“(Popovich) told us RJ had a family emergency and I was starting in his spot,” Anderson said. “I just had to do what I can do.

“I could have been more aggressive on offense, but it was just the flow of the game. I had some good passes that got us some buckets and I thought I was solid on both ends.”

Cleanliness counts: The Spurs fan who subdued the Mexican freetail bat that swooped down on the court during the second quarter of Friday’s game said the only reward he seeks for restoring order to the game is a chance to meet Manu Ginobili.

Ginobili swatted a bat out of the air during a game on Halloween night last season. He subsequently had to get a series of painful rabies shots because that bat was not properly secured after the incident so it could be tested for rabies.

Tim Ralston, seated in the second row near midcourt, said the bat collided with his hip and fell to the floor, where he was able to secure it in a towel that was thrown into the stands by a ball boy.

Happy that someone else played the hero this time around, Ginobili said he will be happy to meet Ralston, on one condition.

“First, make sure he washes his hands and is out of trouble,” he said. “Then I’ll go shake his hand willingly.”

Familiar role: Veteran Antonio McDyess started for the Spurs for a second consecutive game, with second-year power forward DeJuan Blair again coming off the bench.

For Blair, it is a familiar role, since he came off the bench in 59 of the 82 games he played in his rookie season.

“I just bring energy off the bench now,” he said after scoring 14 points and grabbing six rebounds in 22:23. “That’s the only thing. Just come in here and be the same person. I’m just not starting no more.”

Blair didn’t need any words of encouragement from his veteran teammates to accept the change.

“I did it enough last year to know what it is,” he said. “Hopefully, I can be that spark that they need off the bench.”

Ginobili feels Blair’s pain over midseason benching

By Mike Monroe

Removed from the starting lineup for the first time all season, Spurs forward DeJuan Blair was in no mood to speak with reporters after Thursday’s practice session.

If Blair’s reluctance to talk indicated unease about being replaced by veteran Antonio McDyess for Wednesday’s game against the Pistons, he can expect to get a pep talk soon from a teammate who understands what it feels like to go from starter to reserve.

“I’ve got to say it’s not easy for a guy like him, starting for 63 games, being the center of the leader in the NBA,” said guard Manu Ginobili, well acquainted with coach Gregg Popovich’s tactical maneuvers. “He’s young. He’s got to adjust, but he’s a great kid. He wants to win. He’s going to do good.”

No Spur can relate to Blair’s discomfort more than Ginobili. A starter and key contributor from 2002-03 through 2005-06, he was asked to take a reserve role in 2006-07. Then, he came off the bench for the final 35 regular-season games in which he played, and all 20 games of a playoff run that ended with the team’s fourth NBA title.

“I’m never shocked by a lineup change with Pop,” Ginobili said. “Probably with the record we have right now, you probably thought he would hold it. But he thought it was best for the team, and he went ahead and did it.”

McDyess has been a mentor for Blair in the young forward’s first two seasons in the NBA. When he returned to the Spurs bench after being introduced with the rest of the starters for Wednesday’s game against the Pistons, Blair welcomed him with a hug.

Ginobili took that as a good sign, but will monitor Blair’s mood and speak to him if he believes an encouraging word is required.

“We’re probably going to see how he feels, if he’s down or does not feel good about it,” Ginobili said. “One of us will probably talk (to him), but he’s been here for a while. He’s seen me going back to the bench .?.?. during the playoffs. I don’t see a reason why he should take it bad.”

LET THEM EAT CAKE: McDyess wielded a cake slicer at midcourt of the team’s practice site Thursday, doling out slices of a cake that celebrated his 1,000th game as an NBA player.

“That is impressive,” teammate Richard Jefferson said of McDyess’ milestone. “We didn’t make him cut the cake, but we made him give a speech.”

Both McDyess and Spurs captain Tim Duncan have reached the 1,000-game plateau. In only one other season, 1999-2000, have the Spurs had two players with at least 1,000 career games, Terry Porter and Jerome Kersey.