Blair making an impression with NBA-leading Spurs

The Canadian Press

2/10/2011 12:31:52 AM

TORONTO -- DeJuan Blair is an unusual athlete.

He's considered short for an NBA centre at six foot seven, and maybe a little heavy at 265 pounds.

Not only that, the second-year San Antonio Spurs player does it with no anterior cruciate ligament in either knee.

He's not even sure how long he's been that way.

"I don't even know," Blair said after equalling his career best with 28 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in Wednesday's 111-100 win over the Toronto Raptors. "I just found out (in 2009)."

It turned up in Blair's medical examination before the draft in 2009 and the condition is one reason he went in the second round after his career at Pittsburgh instead of the first. He did have two knee surgeries in high school.

Blair, 21, played 36 minutes against the Raptors and scored 16 points in the fourth quarter as well recording eight rebounds as the Spurs outscored the Raptors 30-16. The win improved San Antonio to an NBA-best record of 44-8.

"I play hard," Blair said. "I know that there are players way taller than me. I am one of the smallest centres in the league. But at the same time I think that I have one of the biggest hearts in the league. I am just going to keep playing hard.

"I still have a lot to learn. I still have to get better on defence and once I get that in three, four or five years from now then I will be pretty good."

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had nothing but praise for Blair after the victory.

"We don't call his number, we don't do anything for him," said Popovich. "We don't throw him the ball, we don't do anything. I'm on his butt from the beginning of the game until the end of the game mercilessly and he just ignores me and plays his game and it comes out pretty good.

"He's just got a knack for the game. He's just a natural player. He has great hands, he understands what's going on, he's got great body control. He gets it done."