- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Blake returned to the court Thursday for his first practice of the season much sooner than expected after suffering a left foot injury less than two weeks ago.
Blake suffered a deep puncture wound in his left foot when he stepped on a spike strip in a Manhattan Beach parking lot just 10 days ago. The initial estimate called for Blake to be out for up to three weeks, but the 10-year veteran ended up missing just the first two days of training camp practice as he was cleared for full participation Thursday morning.
"The kid's just tough as nails," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "I don't know if he'll ever get out of shape. He only knows one way to play, which is hard, and he's worked extremely hard on his game this summer. Watching him, you couldn't tell that this was his first practice. He was Steve Blake."
Blake, 32, will be relied on to back up the 38-year-old Steve Nash at point guard this season. Chris Duhon, acquired by the Lakers from the Orlando Magic in the Dwight Howard trade, had been acting as the primary backup point guard in practice with Blake sidelined. The Lakers also have second-year point guard Darius Morris under contract for this season.
"We just got to make sure we handle the process right, but obviously with Steve playing last year and having a feel for what we want accomplished, he might have a leg up on everybody," Brown said. "But, we'll see."
While there is healthy competition for the backup point guard position, Blake and Duhon already have had a chance to bond as teammates. Nash invited Blake and Duhon to Phoenix for several days prior to the start of training camp for a sort of "point guard summit."
"It was good," Duhon said. "It gave us a chance to hang out, get to know each other, work out a little bit, learn from each other, and it was just a good experience overall."
Nash said they also worked on finding spots on the floor where they will receive shots this season in the new Princeton-style offense the Lakers are adopting.
Blake averaged 5.2 points and 3.3 assists in 23.3 minutes per game last season, serving as a backup to Derek Fisher and later Ramon Sessions (although Blake's role increased in the postseason as Sessions struggled).
Duhon averaged 3.8 points and 2.4 assists in 19.5 minutes per game for Orlando, but shot 42.0 percent from 3-point range, compared to Blake's 33.5 percent.
"I respect both of them, they both play really hard and they're both smart players," said Nash, who averaged 12.5 points and 10.7 assists in 31.6 minutes per game last year for the Suns. "They're two terrific guys to have on any team."
Added Duhon: "Obviously, first, we're teammates, but at the same time, we're competitors as well and we're going to be competing every day for minutes on the court, but at the end of the day, it's also to get each other better. That's how you got to look at it."