Mitch Kupchak and the Los Angeles Lakers signed Steve Blake in free agency last summer as a solution to problems the team was facing in the point guard position. These problems included the aging of Derek Fisher, the troublesome attitude of former Laker reserve Sasha Vujacic, and the lack of speed to matchup with other point guards like Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. Due to Blake’s consistency on both ends of the court that he displayed in his days with the Portland Trail Blazers and his impressive performance in his short stint with the Los Angeles Clippers, he was considered yet another steal for the Lakers to acquire. Now that the regular season has ended, has Steve Blake lived up to expectations thus far?
Steve Blake first got recognition from NBA scouts during his college career at the University of Maryland. Blake immediately became the team’s starting point guard in his first year, eventually earning a spot on the ACC All-Freshman team. Blake led his team to a Final Four appearance in 2001 and won the NCAA championship the following year in 2002. At the end of his college career, he racked up a total of 972 assists and 234 steals. Blake was validated as one of the top passers in the 2003 NBA draft pool. He was drafted 38th overall in the second round by the Washington Wizards, where he only played for a season and a half.*
Blake was signed by Portland in 2005 where he shined as a replacement to an injured Sebastain Telfair. He was then traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2006, but played the remainder of that season with the Denver Nuggets after being traded. During his time with the Nuggets, Blake achieved his first playoff experience. The 2007 season marked the return to Portland for Blake when he signed a three year deal with the team. During this three year period, Blake’s on-court performance dramatically improved and sought the attention of many NBA general managers. However, the Blazers opted to trade Blake along with Travis Outlaw to the Clippers for Marcus Camby. In the half season that he spent with the Lakers’ neighbor, Blake left a solid enough impression with the Lakers that they decided to sign him a few months later.
There was a spark in the air among Laker fans when they heard Steve Blake had joined the team. There was a concern who was going to fill in for Fisher once he retired from the league. Fans knew Sasha Vujacic wasn’t the answer. Therefore, the signing of Blake provided a sigh of relief in Laker Land. That relief turned into excitement when Blake scored the game winning three-pointer in the season opener against the Houston Rockets. Along with key reserves, Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes, Blake brought his speed, his pull-up shot, and his ability to pass to a strong Laker bench. However, his fire seemed to go out as the season progressed, increasing the playtime of Fisher. Blake needs to use his speed by driving to the basket more, improve his defensive capabilities, and continue to work on his jump shot.
After the All-Star break, not only were the Lakers in a groove but Blake seemed to get his stride back. Yet, the chicken pox halted Blake’s ability to contribute to the team at the end of the regular season. Blake’s return has yet to be determined, causing the Lakers to sign Trey Johnson. Phil Jackson said Blake’s return in the first round against New Orleans for Game 2 stands as questionable. The Lakers will miss Blake’s contribution, but are confident that his future in this year’s playoffs and the upcoming season will be bright.
*Stats provided by Basketball-reference.com
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