Lakers have long coveted Steve Blake
The 2009-10 regular season ended, leaving the Lakers wondering how their injury-hobbled and inconsistent team would perform in the postseason and the Clippers wondering how they'd fare in the free-agent market. For Steve Blake, it meant wondering if his first career triple-double -- 23 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds -- in the Clippers' 107-91 victory over the Lakers on April 14 would help his chances in joining the defending champions.
"After the game was over, I was very happy I did that against the Lakers," Blake said, laughing, as the team introduced him Wednesday after agreeing last week to a four-year, $16-million deal. "I wasn't thinking about it during the game."
The Lakers surely were, but that wasn't the first time. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said he had pursued Blake three years ago as a free agent, was impressed by the physical attributes Blake displayed during a pre-draft workout and admired him from afar during his stints with Washington (2003-2005), Portland (2005-2006, 2007-2010), Denver (2006-2007) and Milwaukee (2006-2007). And the acquisition couldn't have come at a better time for the Lakers.
"Quite frankly, we have an aging backcourt," Kupchak said of Kobe Bryant (turns 32 on Aug. 23) and Derek Fisher (turns 36 on Aug. 9). "We need players that can play minutes."
That role will go to Blake, who is expected to back up Fisher as the first guy off the bench. But Blake's value is not just in easing the burden on Fisher; it's also what he'll bring when he's out there. Blake nearly serves as the antithesis to Jordan Farmar, who accepted a four-year, $12-million deal with the New Jersey Nets partly because he felt constrained under the triangle system and could no longer provide the energetic scoring spark he consistently provided at Taft High School and UCLA. Blake embraces playing the team role, as showcased by his tendency to run the point and get others involved quickly, early and often.
"I'm a guy that likes to set people up first and get everyone involved," Blake said. "Giving the ball to a scorer and letting them do their work and read off of them is a role I'm definitely comfortable in."
There are numerous areas that indicated Blake seems suited for the job. Kupchak equally lauded his defensive intensity and his offensive playmaking. Blake equally embraced his distributor role with his ability to knock down open shots off of double teams. And he showered praise for the Lakers ("this is the best place to be"), Lakers Coach Phil Jackson ("the best coach"), Bryant ("the best player in the world") and Fisher ("I've always looked up to him. He's a winner. I've always respected winning").
Sure, there are plenty of things Blake needs to take care of before becoming fully acclimated to the team. He needs to learn the triangle. He needs to specifically iron out his role with Jackson, who talked briefly with Blake over phone after the team signed him. He needs to get to know his teammates, all of whom Blake just knows in passing. And Blake must find a new house for his family, including his wife, Kristen, his two sons, Nicholas (3 1/2 years old) and Jamison (1 1/2 years old) and a baby who's expected in August. But all those areas will likely be promptly addressed as quickly as Blake decided on the day he signed to make a Twitter account, which quickly ballooned in followers.
"My wife has been trying to get me on Twitter for years now," Blake said. "I've been putting it off, so I figured why not now. The fans right away with the messages and the welcomes was overwhelming. It was cool to see. I wouldn't expect a lot of tweets from me though."That's OK if he only has three tweets. Blake and his fans only expect a lot of production on the basketball court, just like he provided in that season-finale against the Lakers. It's perhaps a sign of things to come.
-- Mark Medina
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