Monday, May 28, 2012
2011-12 Report Card: Steve Blake
By Dave McMenamin
Any analysis of Steve Blake's season should begin with first following the money. Blake's $4 million salary was the highest of any of the Lakers' bench players and yet there were times when he was outperformed by rookie guard Andrew Goudelock, a second-round pick making approximately 1/10th of what Blake was.
It has not been an easy transition for Blake since joining the Lakers in summer 2009. As a point guard, he's had to learn the playbooks of two vastly different coaches in Phil Jackson and Mike Brown in consecutive years. He's dealt with two freak medical conditions (the chickenpox last season and a costrochaondral fracture this season). He's also been dangled in trade rumors involving the likes of Raymond Felton and Kirk Hinrich.
Blake deserves a modicum of credit, however, for sticking with it and remaining the type of professional who receives universal respect from his teammates in the locker room.
"Over time you get more comfortable with your teammates," Blake said after his exit interview last week. "They know more about you and you know more about them and kind of figure each other out. For me, I definitely was much more comfortable throughout this whole season and the playoffs. I really loved playing with everybody and enjoyed it and look forward to coming back and playing with them again."
It's been an inauspicious start to his Lakers career to say the least, but Blake still has two years to make good on his contract. The tide can still turn.
Blake was instrumental in the Lakers eking out a win over Denver in the first round, from his three 3-pointers in the first quarter of Game 1, to his clutch 3 late in Game 4 to his night for the ages in Game 7 when he scored 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting. He also made key contributions in three of the Lakers' most significant regular season wins -- 17 points in a win against Portland, the game after the Lakers were reeling from a road loss to Phoenix that caused Kobe Bryant to pop off to the press about management being unfair to Pau Gasol; 10 points, three rebounds and three assists in a road win in San Antonio; and 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals in L.A.'s double-overtime home win over Oklahoma City.
Blake shot a career-worst 33.5 percent from 3, a particularly damning number considering the sheer amount of open looks he and other perimeter players on the Lakers were receiving as a result of the constant double teams that Andrew Bynum faced in the post. There were also far too many games when the nine-year veteran wouldn't make himself a presence at all. Blake scored two points or less 16 times this season (including going scoreless seven times) and he also had 21 games where he dished out two assists or fewer.
Blake is still a very important part of the Lakers and could even be their starting point guard if Ramon Sessions opts out of his contract and pursues free agency elsewhere. He'll need to get his 3-point percentage back up toward his 38.7 career mark to really help this team, however.
It's a passing grade for a player that played too passive for most of the season.