Steve Blake had one of his best games as a Laker on Thursday against Minnesota with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Blake signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Lakers in the summer of 2010 and has yet to live up to the expectations as a player that Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the team coveted since Blake's pre-draft workout with the team in 2003.
But it hasn't been all Blake's fault.
First there were schematics that worked against him. Both Phil Jackson's triangle offense and Mike Brown's post-up sets did not allow Blake to play his natural flow-based, read-and-react game. Mike D'Antoni's style finally seems to be a fit.
Blake's body has also been to blame.
Blake has been through enough bizarre injuries in his three years with the team to fill a season's worth of scripts for "House, M.D." He had a case of the chicken pox in 2010-11, then dealt with a costrochaondral fracture (a fracture of the cartilage connecting the rib to the sternum) last season. This season he had his training camp derailed when he stepped on a spike strip in a beach parking lot and punctured his foot, and then went on to miss 37 games because of a groin/abdomen injury that required surgery.
However, now the backup point guard is both healthy and confident, and it's showing on the court.
The Lakers' bench scored 52 points in their 116-94 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday. Even though Antawn Jamison was the Lakers' leading scorer as a reserve against the Wolves with 17 points, he credited Blake (13 points, seven rebounds, six assists) as the key reason L.A.'s second unit was anything but second rate.
"That's nice of him," Blake said about Jamison, in his typically understated style.
Blake is averaging 5.3 points and 3.4 assists this season for L.A. -- both his highest marks since joining the team -- and he was even better in February, averaging 5.8 points in 19.0 minutes per game while shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from 3-point range.
"I feel really good out there," Blake said. "I think my teammates make me feel that way and Coach does, so I'm excited with the way things are going right now."
That excitement doesn't allow for dwelling on past disappointments.
"I put that behind me," said Blake, who has also been able to forget about being trade bait each of the past two trade deadlines. "That was a long time ago to me. I just focus on the future and the present and have fun and go out there and play."
As Blake has improved, so has the cohesion between him, Jamison and Jodie Meeks, who have formed L.A.'s three-man bench trio.
"This second group," Blake said, "We're settling into knowing our roles and the things we can get and how to play with each other."
D'Antoni's faith in the three, starting with Blake, has been rewarded.
"I've settled down with these guys and given them rope to play," D'Antoni said. "Before we were trying to find who could do it, who can't. I didn't know everybody and how they would fit, but with Steve Nash coming back [from a leg injury] and now Steve Blake, it helps these guys."