- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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The 6-foot-7 wide body claimed off the summer scrap heap might just have worked his way into becoming the Dallas Mavericks' primary center.
DeJuan Blair hasn't started a game this season, with Samuel Dalembert going up for the opening tip in all 10 games. But Blair did finish the two close games on the Mavs' 1-1 road trip, a sign of the trust he's earned from coach Rick Carlisle.
Blair has gotten the bigger slice of the minutes pie for the big men in each of the last three games. That isn't likely to change after his 18-point, five-rebound outing in Saturday's 108-100 win over the Orlando Magic.
The Mavs outscored Orlando by 18 points during Blair's 25 minutes. He also had an eye-popping positive plus-minus in the Mavs' previous win, when Dallas had a 20-point advantage over the Washington Wizards in Blair's 24 minutes, when he produced nine points and 11 rebounds.
Blair, a San Antonio Spurs castoff who settled for a one-year, minimum-salary contract from the Mavs, has embraced his role as Dallas' bruiser off the bench. He's averaging 9.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 steals in 21.7 minutes per game and has the best plus-minus on the team other than co-stars Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis.
"They gave me the confidence just to come in and play my game," Blair said Saturday on the team's television broadcast, referring to his teammates, the coaching staff and front office in Dallas. "I accepted my role, every responsibility I have. I try to play up to the best of my ability. I try to keep the faith and know that I can still play in this game. I think I'm showing it. I've just got to be consistent with it."
The center rotation will be shaken up relatively soon when Brandan Wright returns from a nondisplaced fracture of his left shoulder. With Wright doing shooting drills now, that isn't too far away from happening.
Don't be so certain, though, that Blair will be the one whose role gets reduced.
So far, Blair has earned his minutes, which is why he's getting more recently.