Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Lakers have Blake, Fisher in fold
By Dave McMenamin ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- Steve Blake was born in Hollywood, Fla., and 30 years later was welcomed to Hollywood, Calif., as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
Blake will replace Jordan Farmar as the team's primary backup point guard behind Derek Fisher as the Lakers seek a third consecutive championship. Blake signed a four-year deal valued at $16 million earlier this month.
Former Clippers guard Steve Blake agreed to a four-year, $16-million deal to change locker rooms at Staples Center.
The team announced Wednesday that it had re-signed Fisher, the 6-foot-1 point guard who has been part of five Lakers championships. The team did not disclose terms of the contract, but a source told ESPNLosAngeles.com that it will be for three years and approximately $10.5 million. The third year is a player option.
The two-time defending NBA champions also showed Blake around their training complex before formally announcing him as a Laker with a news conference.
"I'm extremely excited to be coming here to the Lakers," said Blake, who averaged 7.3 points and 4.8 assists and shot 39.5 percent on 3-pointers last season while splitting time between the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers. "As a player who wants to win and has won championships at every level except the NBA, I think this is the best place to be as a point guard being able to play with the best player in the world in Kobe Bryant and other players like Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and to play for the best coach, Phil Jackson. ... There couldn't be any better opportunity out there for me than to come here."
Fisher was drafted by the Lakers, along with Kobe Bryant, in 1996. He played eight years with Los Angeles before stints with the Warriors and Jazz. He returned to the Lakers for the 2007-08 season and has been a starter on back-to-back title teams.
He averaged only 7.5 points and 2.5 assists per game in the regular season this year but upped his totals to 10.3 and 2.8 in the playoffs.
Blake averaged 7.3 points and 4.8 assists last season between the Blazers and Clippers. His career averages are 7.5 points and 2.1 assists.
Although Blake said he committed to the Lakers just two days into the free-agency process that opened on July 1, the signing of the 6-3, 172-pound veteran was seven years in the making as the team has been interested in Blake ever since he won a national championship in college with the University of Maryland.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Blake had one of the most impressive pre-draft workouts he's ever seen in terms of physical ability when the guard came in before the 2003 NBA draft. Washington selected Blake with the No. 38 pick. Los Angeles used its second-round selection on Luke Walton that year at No. 32.
"This is not the first time we talked about acquiring Steve," Kupchak said. "We've followed his career for years. We have made attempts in the past to acquire his services. ... You look for players that fit and there are just X amount of players that do."
With Blake on the Lakers' radar for quite some time, he made sure to cause a major blip on the front office's screen in the final game of the regular season to give it something to think about when free agency rolled around.
Blake put up 23 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in the Clippers' 107-91 win over the Lakers, racking up a triple-double in the finale.
"After the game was over, I was very happy that I did that against the Lakers," Blake said with a laugh.
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Although Blake is almost six years younger than Fisher, the Lakers do not anticipate any changes to the starting lineup next season.
"We expect Derek in all likelihood to start -- it's the coach's decision -- and to play big minutes, but Derek is soon to be 36, so we knew we needed a player in the backcourt to spell Derek in relief and also going forward," Kupchak said.
He added, "Quite frankly we have an aging backcourt," when referring to Fisher and Bryant, both of whom will enter their 15th season.
While Blake is a fierce competitor, winning a USA Today national high school championship at Oak Hill Academy before cutting down the nets as a Maryland Terrapin, do not expect any controversy when it comes to splitting the point guard position between him and Fisher.
"Over the years, Derek Fisher, he's has been so huge," Blake said. "A lot of places I've been, they were like, 'Oh, you're not the best point guard in the league, you probably won't be able to win a championship.' And I said, 'Well, look at a guy like Derek Fisher who has been so successful, he's won five championships. He's a great player, but he's not the best point guard in the NBA.' I think it's important to know that it's not about me doing everything, the point guard doing everything, it's about the team.
"I've always looked up to [Derek]. He's a winner and I've always respected winning."
Blake gives the Lakers a pass-first point guard with a steady outside stroke off the bench who will be able to space the floor in the triangle offense. Although his frame may be slight by NBA standards, he also is a staunch defender, a skill not lost on Kupchak.
"[Outside] what he brings offensively, defensively he's just as important for us," Kupchak said. "We need a player out there that can defend. With the way the NBA is shaping up, it continues to be very competitive and one way you can separate yourself from other teams is on the defensive end."
Said Blake: "I've always been a guy that likes to set people up first, get everyone involved, be a scrappy defender, knock down open shots because we got a lot of guys on this team that get doubled and just be an intelligent player out there on the court. I've tried to play that way my whole life and continue to play that way."
A handful of teams were interested in Blake, including his former team in Portland, but he opted to avoid the free-agency frenzy that seized the league and made the easy choice of joining the Lakers with the chance to compete for a championship.
"The Lakers were first on my list just because of their history and the future that they have in front of them," Blake said.
Top priority for Blake's summer becomes learning the triangle offense with the aid of DVDs and other learning materials provided by the team, but first he and his wife, Kristen, will return to Portland to prepare for the birth of their third child, a boy, due in August to join their other boys, Nicholas, 3, and Jamison, 1.
"He's in bright yellow, we've never seen dad in bright yellow before, huh?" Kristin said to Nicholas as her husband posed for his first official photos wearing his new No. 5 jersey, finally donning the Lakers' purple and gold threads.
It was a jersey that had been waiting for him for a long time.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.