Clippers' Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan expect Steve Blake to 'fit in well' with the Lakers
Steve Blake walked onto the floor at Staples Center donning a Clippers uniform without really knowing much about his teammates. He had just been part of a trade the day before that sent him and his teammate, Travis Outlaw, to L.A. for Clippers forward Marcus Camby. Since he'd be making his debut the following day, Blake would have to solely rely on his instincts.
It turns out his instincts proved more than enough, as he recorded a game-high nine assists Feb. 17, 2009, in a 110-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The performance provided an early sign that there would be no such thing as an adjustment period for Blake.
"Our first game together, he found me for three lobs," Clippers backup center DeAndre Jordan said. "We hadn't even practiced together."
It sounds similar to Blake's acclimation with the Lakers after joining them this off-season as a free agent and agreeing to a four-year, $16-million deal. He immediately impressed the Lakers enough during the team's first two practices about his understanding of the triangle offense. Since then, Coach Phil Jackson and teammates have lauded the backup point guard for his court vision and instant chemistry with teammates, two variables that will instantly bolster the Lakers' bench this season.
Still, Blake has experienced some adversity, including a few untimely passes, a eight of 27 clip through the first five exhibition games and, this week, feeling under the weather with cold-like symptoms.
"Personally it's been a little up and down," said Blake after scoring 10 points on four of seven shooting Tuesday in the Lakers' 82-74 preseason loss to Utah. "The first couple games I just wanted to run the offense and not get too aggressive. Then there's another game where I get a bunch of shots and couldn't make them and then I get shots tonight and I do make them. So it's been a little up and down. I think that's to be expected on a new team with a new system and new players. Even though the season is coming soon, I'm looking forward to becoming more consistent."
Blake's comments speak more about his self-criticism and hunger level than anything serious. As Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said after Blake went zero of seven from the field last Sunday against Utah, "Steve Blake? He's fine." His quick acclimation with the Clippers offers proof why.
"It was easy for him," Clippers guard Eric Gordon said of Blake, who started in 10 of the 29 games and averaged 6.8 points and 6.1 assists in 26.3 minutes per contest. "We had a lot of guys who could score. He was just picking his spots where he would hit an open shot or create for somebody."
That, of course, isn't anything new. Jordan vividly recalled as a rookie when Blake tied Portland's franchise record 14 first-quarter assists and a season-high 17 during a rout in the 2008-09 off-season. Then there are some, such as Clippers center Chris Kaman, who refuse to remember. Consider this exchange with Jordan and Kaman last weekend before the Clippers' 108-104 preseason loss to the Denver Nuggets.
"Come here, Chris," Jordan said, motioning him toward his locker. "Do you remember when Steve had  assists in the first quarter in Portland?
"You remember that, Chris," Jordan said. "Chris Kaman is a hater. But Steve finds people. He found Chris a lot."
"Yeah and DJ for some nice sweet lobs."
"Chris can't catch lobs," Jordan shot back.
The Lakers have shown they can. Blake already has developed a knack for finding Lamar Odom in the post. He and Matt Barnes seem to be helping each other learn the triangle. And his energy has helped bolster the bench. That's why it comes as no surprise that even though the Clippers wanted to shed as much cap room for the LeBron James sweepstakes, teammates would've preferred he stayed. Instead, Blake's triple-double performance against the Lakers in their season finale just provided a glimpse for what he'll offer the Lakers this season.
"He has a real good niche for finding people and building chemistry with guys," Jordan said. "That team already has a real good bond, so he'll fit in well."
-- Mark Medina
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