PHILADELPHIA -- A smile on the face of DeJuan Blair comes as often as a solar eclipse. It certainly never made an appearance last season with the Wizards, but he's confident enough to predict a much better 2015-16.
"It's going to be a great year, man," Blair said after posting 15 points and seven rebounds in the Wizards' 127-118 victory vs. the 76ers on Friday night. "That's my goal."
By default it'll be an improvement for him over 2014-15. Blair appeared in a career-low 29 games. He sat in street clothes during the playoffs because he was inactive. He was out of shape. He pouted. He never could work his way into coach Randy Wittman's good graces. But with Kevin Seraphin gone and Nene likely to be in and out of the lineup with aches and pains, Blair will have more chances like this. And it helps that he lost 30 pounds coming into training camp.
"This is probably the best I looked since I've been in the league, for real," Blair said after playing in his just second preseason game and heading into his third tonight at the Milwaukee Bucks. "It's time to switch it up a little bit, trying to better myself in every way.
"It's my body (that's the difference). Last year was a big wake-up call coming from Dallas, went from playing in the playoffs to not playing at all ... This year I worked all over the summer."
Unlike when he had 12 points in six minutes of mop-up duty vs. the Sixers two weeks ago, Blair came off the bench early with Nene sitting out because of a sore right calf.
He was light on his feet, getting to the rim, finishing reverse layups, launching the one-hand floater, catching difficult passes in traffic and making nifty touch passes of his own.
"Both games he's played in, I thought he's been really good," Wittman said. "Really effective being a big body, rolling to the basket. He's got any uncanny soft touch on his in-between game if doesn't get all the way there."
To keep up with the new way they're playing, pushing the ball at every chance to heighten the pace and possessions, Blair has to remain fit to play. His 25 minutes on the court Friday were his most in any appearance for the Wizards, preseason or regular season.
"It's something that I just got to get used to. But I'm ready though," Blair said. "I'm not far away. I'm just trying to work hard, get in the best shape I can. It's going to be a great season."