Monday, December 23, 2013
Blake sharpening his southpaw skills
By Dave McMenamin
PHOENIX -- Steve Blake can't help it if he looks like the bionic man these days, forced to wear a bulky, mechanical-looking brace day and night to help stabilize the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. But he can control his activity while he wears it.
That's why you could spot Blake on the court hours before the Los Angeles Lakers played the Phoenix Suns on Monday -- the seventh straight game he has missed because of the injury -- in a full sweat from his workout routine.
He still has a left hand, after all.
"I’ve gotten a lot better," Blake said when asked about his lefty game. "I could make maybe two out of five free throws [shooting left-handed] when I first started. Now I can go five to 10 in a row. And I can make 3s."
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni has noticed the work Blake has put in during the two weeks the point guard has been sidelined and says the 11-year veteran might have some options when he is cleared to return to the lineup.
"I told him he might play left-handed," D'Antoni said with a smile. "He can just change up his game a little bit."
While D'Antoni was joking, Blake has been serious about improving his left hand. This isn't just him tossing up trick shots for the heck of it.
"I’m trying to mostly practice finger rolls and reverse layups and some floaters," said Blake, who will be out at least another month. "It’s fun to shoot and see how good you can shoot with it. The only difference is I can’t use my right hand to stabilize the ball at all."
Blake said he's always had to be a bit ambidextrous in his role on the court passing off the dribble with either hand, but he was never inclined to shoot that way.
"At the end of the day if I’m better with my left now after this, it’s a blessing," Blake said. "It can only help."
The injury hasn't helped Blake much off the court, however. He says he has to keep his arm brace on "24/7," even wearing it over his dress shirts when he sits on the bench for games, and taking it off only to shower and change clothes.
That means he also wears it to bed.
"I sleep on my side," Blake said. "I usually sleep on both sides, but only on my left side now. It’s uncomfortable, but I’m getting used to it."
While the brace keeps Blake's right arm set at a 90-degree angle, the rest of his body is free to move the way he always does on the court.
"I do stuff every day," Blake said. "I can run and jump and do all the stuff like that. I just don’t ever touch the ball with my right hand and keep my arm [locked].
"I’m able to keep my conditioning up. Not to an extreme level. But yeah, it shouldn’t take me too long once I am able to get back into it. It’s going to be interesting to see how long it takes my [right] arm to get back strength. I’m going to be in this [brace] for four weeks."
That right arm had helped him to averages of 9.8 points and 7.7 assists this season while shooting 40 percent from 3.
"The thing I’m concerned about the most is getting my shot back and how my [right] arm is going to feel in that motion again," Blake said.
While he'll have to wait and see how his right arm responds, for now he can only watch his team try to compete without a point guard, with Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) and Jordan Farmar (hamstring tear) also sidelined.
"There’s been stretches when they’ve looked really good and then there’s times where any point guard that has experience would be helpful to get into an offense or a play and understand the flow of the game, things like that," Blake said. "I absolutely wish I could be out there helping them somehow."
The injury has also proved to be a challenge for Blake being a dad around his three young children.
"My youngest, he comes barreling at me all the time," Blake said with a laugh. "I have to stiff-arm him."