The Los Angeles Lakers made it official on Wednesday when they signed and introduced forward Antawn Jamison as the newest Laker, as well as inking forward-center Jordan Hill to keep him in purple and gold. While it was confirmed by Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak that they are still looking for additions for their roster, it is important to focus on the performances and expectations of current Lakers.
Most of the players on the current roster have a lot to prove to the basketball community and to Laker fans after a rather inconsistent season and another disappointing exit from the playoffs. Some of the notable players on this list include Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. Of course, everyone expects the players to improve as that is the nature of competitive sports. I would like to focus on another player on this list that has yet to meet expectations in Los Angeles. That player is Steve Blake.
Steve Blake has been in a Laker uniform for two seasons now, and has yet to post the numbers that he created with the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Clippers from 2007-2010. These numbers were what made Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak interested in Blake in the first place and what made them feel that he was “the guy” to be the reserve point guard for the Lakers.
During his time with Portland and the Clippers from 2007-2010, Blake averaged 8.5 points and 5.1 assists per game on 42.1 percent field goal shooting and 41.2 percent three-point shooting in 29 minutes. Compare that to the last two seasons with the Lakers where Blake has averaged 4.6 points and 2.8 assists on 36.8 percent field goal shooting and 35.7 three-point shooting in 22 minutes.
Despite these less than impressive numbers, Blake has seemed to gain a trusting relationship with Laker management, Kobe Bryant and Mike Brown. Last season, Brown seemed to have no hesitation in putting Blake on the court to close games over former Lakers Derek Fisher and Ramon Sessions, even in crucial parts of the game. Jim Buss reiterated his support of Blake recently during the NBA Summer League when he publicly stated that he believes Blake will finally have a “breakout” year in the upcoming season.
Blake seems to have had reoccurring issues with his confidence, especially at the three-point line during the past two seasons. For the most part, Blake has been too hesitant with his long shot, which has certainly led to the drop in his stat averages and has caused him to force ill-advised shots and commit turnovers. Of course, this hasn’t helped improve his confidence.
However, Blake has made crucial shots that have either won the game or has triggered momentum to go to the Lakers side. With the addition of Steve Nash, Blake’s overall game should be improved. Blake will no longer be the in-between point guard, where he is sometimes the back-up point and sometimes the starting one. That automatically relieves a little pressure off of Blake’s shoulders, and he can concentrate on gaining confidence with the three ball, which will hopefully improve his three-point average to around his 2007-2010 average of 41.2 percent.
Even though Blake has nine NBA seasons under his belt and is a veteran, he can certainly learn from Steve Nash. Nash is a bit of a wizard off the dribble and moving away from the ball, which are two areas that Blake can make improvements in. Watching and learning Nash’s footwork to create easy opportunities for his teammates and to create space for open looks will absolutely help Blake’s performance and contributions on the court. Moving away from the ball will be quite useful for his three-point average, which will continue to be his most important role on the team.
Blake seems to have a grasp for the importance of next season and his role as his career matures. During a phone interview with the Los Angeles Times‘s Mark Medina in early July, Blake remarked:
“As I’m getting older, I definitely want to get a championship and get a ring. The motto has been whatever it takes to get it. Whether it’s coming off the bench, playing more minutes, less minutes, supporting my teammates, playing the game the right way, whatever it takes.”
Expectations are always high for the Lakers with Laker fans and the basketball world consistently expecting excellence. With the additions that management has already made to the starting lineup and the bench have raised these expectations a little higher. Steve Blake is not exempt from these expectations, even though Steve Nash will take most of the spotlight for the point guard position. However, Blake’s role is crucial to the bench, especially at the three-point line. Next season will be vital for Blake to boost his consistency and contribution, and to help improve last season’s struggling bench in order to finally meet his expectations.