Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman has not given reserve power forward DeJuan Blair much of a chance to prove himself so far this season.
Blair has played just 11 minutes in three games so far this season, where he has only scored two points and grabbed one rebound over that time, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Now, Blair’s lack of playing time is not a knock on him. It’s because Wittman has had the luxury of a deep bench, with players such as Drew Gooden III, Kris Humphries and Kevin Seraphin.
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Humphries is averaging 6.8 points and 4.7 boards in just under 16 minutes per game, while Gooden is right behind, averaging 6.6 points and four rebounds in a little over 18 minutes per game. And Seraphin has come on strong late, including a 12-point, six-rebound and three-block performance against Cleveland on Friday.
But Blair’s chances of seeing the court increased with the recent injury to Nene. The regular starter is dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Nene has dealt with this injury in the past, most recently last season when he missed a chunk of the season only to come back for the playoffs. But the concerning part is that this injury flared up in his right foot, when in years past it was in his left foot.
And although Nene’s offensive production hasn’t been what it was in recent memory (10.6 points, 4.7 rebounds per game), his defense has been unquestionably a game-changer.
While it’s unknown how long Nene will be sidelined with this injury (it often takes a month or so to fully recover), Wittman can and should turn to Blair for a short stint (10-15 minutes per game) to pick up the intensity that Nene brings to the court.
Although Blair’s offensive game has never blown fans out of their seats (he’s never averaged double-digit scoring in a season), he does provide a steadiness from 3-10 feet from the hoop with a career average of 41.3 percent shooting from that distance.
He also provides a boost on the boards.
In six games against the San Antonio Spurs in last year’s playoffs, Blair grabbed 37 rebounds for the Dallas Mavericks. His performance in the playoffs (6.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and two steals in 13.5 minutes per game) prompted some to think that Blair had a permanent home in Dallas.
As we all know, that ended up not being the case.
Nobody has ever questioned Blair’s toughness and energy. He’s made a longer career than some envisioned after enduring multiple ACL surgeries.
If Wittman sees that his team needs a pick-me-up in the coming games without Nene, especially tonight against Al Horford and the Atlanta Hawks, the head coach should turn to Blair. He could provide something like this: