DALLAS -- If there's ever a player who wears his emotions on his sleeves, it's DeJuan Blair.
And right now, the Dallas Mavericks' center is walking around with a lot of pin-up emotions.
Blair is still steamed at the way the San Antonio Spurs treated him last season. Especially since they barely played him at all against Miami during the NBA Finals in a series Blair believes he could have helped the Spurs win if given the chance to play.
Thus, when Blair became a free agent, signed a one-year, $884,293 contract with the Mavs, and then saw that their first game against the Spurs was today, he made a big fat circle around it on his calendar.
For Blair that day has finally arrived, because the Spurs (22-7) will face the Mavs (16-12) at 7:30 tonight at American Airlines Center in their first of four meetings this season.
"It's going to be a fun game,'' Blair said after Thursday morning's shootaround. "It's just something that I've been looking forward to, of course, and I'm going to have some fun tonight.''
Blair had started eight consecutive games for the Mavs until he didn't play in Monday's 111-104 win at Houston primarily because of matchup issues with Rockets' center Dwight Howard. But with centers Samuel Dalembert and Brandan Wright slated as game-time decisions tonight after they both missed Thursday's shootaround with an illness, Blair may get all the time he needs to pound on the Spurs.
Meanwhile, the Mavs don't believe Blair will be too fired up to play against his former team that he can't focus on the task at hand.
"There's just a preminum on just hard, aggressive play that we need him to play his game,'' coach Rick Carlisle said of Blair. "I see him playing hard all the time anyway, so I don't see a big issue there.
"Plus, we'll have to see who shows up tonight, as far as who's available (between Dalembert and Wright). One or both may be available or one or both may not be, so we'll see. Either way, DeJuan is going to be in the mix somewhere.''
In 61 games for the Spurs last season Blair averaged 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in 14 minutes per game while shooting 52.4 percent from the field. In 27 games for the Mavs this year he's averaged 8.3 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 53.5 percent from the floor.
Blair was a second-round pick by the Spurs (37th overall) out of Pittsburgh in 2009 and had some very productive games for San Antonio. But he somehow got in the crosshairs of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich last season and was extremely upset with the treatment he received duing his final days in San Antonio.
Still, Blair paid homage to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli as they've led the way for the Spurs, who lead the Southwest Division.
"They're a great team, of course,'' Blair said. "They've got Timmie and Tony and Manu, and Belinelli is playing great for them.
"We've just got to play them.''
Asked if he has anything to prove to the Spurs that they made a mistake by not offering to re-sign him to a contract, Blair said: 'No, I ain't got nothing to prove. I'm going to just have fun, though.
"It's going to be a sweet thing.''
-- Dwain Price
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