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December 4, 2009, 12:27 PM ET
Blair, draft fail, and one email

by John Gasaway

Last night DeJuan Blair did something to make even the casual NBA fan sit up and take notice. He played the Sports Guy’s team. 

San Antonio played Boston, meaning Bill Simmons was watching. So when Blair posted an 18-11 double-double in just 21 minutes (mind you, against Rasheed, KG, and crew), Simmons sent out this tweet: “Dear NBA GMs who passed on DeJuan Blair from 11 to 36: I hope you’re watching TNT tonight. And feeling dumber than usual.” And that wasn’t even the best tweet of the night on the subject. Chris Douglas-Roberts had just one question: “How do guys like DeJuan Blair go in the 2nd round??? That’s some retarded shii.”

Well, how did Blair fall to the second round? If your answer contains the word ”knees” ($), much less “long-term worries about his knees,” I have to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with CDR on this one. It is indeed some retarded shii. Yes, Blair had major reconstructive surgeries done on both knees in high school. You might remember that he then looked OK I guess as a college player while not missing a single game or, in Pitt coach Jamie Dixon’s telling, practice over the course of two seasons. (By the way the best piece on Blair’s knee issues was of course done by my colleague Kevin Pelton.)

Still, let’s set forth the worst-case scenario here. Blair’s knees are ticking time bombs. At some point in the not-too-distant future he will get out of bed in the morning only to find that his hips have collapsed down directly onto both ankles. He will then spend the rest of his life tooling about in a Rascal as a beloved ambassador of the game who, tragically, was cut down in his prime. 

Fine. Even if you accept that as a 100 percent certain outcome, today as I tap out these words Blair is all of 20 years old. Unless you believe he’s going to meet his oh-so-certain knee-Armageddon before he turns 22, there was no earthly reason not to spend a mid- to late-first-round pick and sign him to the standard two-year contract.  After that you can call in your specialists, do your MRIs, and make your best deal.

Meantime your team has an incomparable Thabeet-flipping man-weapon, one whose “historic” offensive rebounding spelled the difference between a Pitt offense that was merely average and one that was the effective equivalent of North Carolina. Or, as I said on draft night after watching with mounting disbelief as 33 players not named DeJuan Blair were chosen by this so-called NBA, “We are now at the point where Blair must have had both legs amputated early this morning.”

Blair was measured as being just a quarter-inch over 6-5 without shoes at the combine, meaning I’m actually a half-inch or so taller than he is. And yet he can play at this level against the Celtics. I find that both inspiring and mind-bending. I will enjoy him for as long as his knees and his league’s retarded shii will allow.

Leave the Pac-10 alone
Texas Tech beat tenth-ranked Washington in OT 99-92 in Lubbock last night in a wild game that saw the home crowd storm the floor twice. The first time was after a Mike Singletary buzzer-beater at the end of regulation that, upon further review, did not beat the buzzer. The second time was for real. 

Let us all rightly celebrate the Red Raiders (Bob Knight is indeed correct: Pat Knight’s team needs to play some D this year), but please don’t trot out the “Pac-10 takes another hit” line. You might remember a team called Kansas. Exactly nine months ago to the day the Jayhawks were blown off that same United Spirit Arena floor by the Raiders, 84-65, and unless you believe Xavier Henry would have been worth 20 points to KU that night, we are talking about the exact same group of players that currently has their team rated as the odds-on favorite to win this season’s national championship. Kansas hasn’t won in Lubbock since 2003. There is no shame attached to U-Dub losing there, much less to the Pac-10 for having its nominal best team lose there. Move along. 

Unfiltered-back!
Don’t just mutter ineffectually; email me!

When a pile of good emails collects I tend to cower in front of it in a strange kind of shamed paralysis. No longer! I’m owning up to my shortcomings and letting go of that shame. I know I won’t get to them all but here’s a timely one.

Did you notice a sign at front of the student section during the Purdue-Wake Forest game that said “Defense Lives Here” and had a counter with what I think was possessions and points? It’s catching on.

Alex

I did notice the sign and it looked like one of the two numbers was definitely points, but I couldn’t tell whether the other number was possessions or blocks or steals or something else. Let me hear from you, Paint Crew!

Even if the Boiler kids aren’t tracking possessions with their signage just yet, that day is not far off. Just this morning we have news from redoubtable colleague Ken Pomeroy that the Big Ten clearly has tempo-free fever–and they don’t want no cure!

Ken’s been tracking which 2010 team pages at his place have been getting the most hits. Turns out one conference in particular is well represented on the list of top pages: “With Indiana, Michigan, and Northwestern falling just short of this list, the Big Ten actually has nine teams in the top 30 and easily provides the biggest source of interest in the site.” 

Good on you, tempo-free-crazed Midwesterners! And speaking more globally, there’s a free copy of the book in it for the first undergrad–north, south, east, or west–that sends me a photo of authenticated in-arena possession-tracking. Go to it, next generation! You carry the promise of a new and more rational age cohort, one that would never do something as epically dumb as pass on DeJuan Blair.

***UPDATE: I post an entry and literally two minutes later I get an answer. Readers. So responsive.

The defense lives here sign at Mackey Arena actually tracks turnovers forced by that famously tenacious Boilermaker D. If they could do real-time turnover percentage, though, you can bet those wily engineers would be so on top of that. The sign started in the last couple years, when Purdue resumed being good at basketball. Oddly that corresponded almost precisely with my graduation and relocation to the East Coast.

Adam T.

Thanks, Adam! And my offer still stands: I have here a free book for the first student or students who bring me a jpeg showing they’re tracking possessions at the game. Assistant coaches have done it for years. You can do it too. 

BONUS collegial note! So let me get this straight. I’m over here busting my tail for old man Prospectus and pumping out like 5K words per week, while Pomeroy’s sprawled out on the floor of his den with his laptop open and his fuzzy slippers on, lovingly tracking real-time hits on his site meter? I’ve got to get that guy back to work.        

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