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Laker report cards: Steve Blake

61048953Below is the second edition of Laker report cards, this one focusing on Lakers guard Steve Blake.

Grade: C-

In just his second practice in training camp, Lakers guard Steve Blake impressed the coaching staff and teammates so much of his understanding of the triangle offense that Ron Artest asked Coach Phil Jackson if Blake had spent plenty of his summer days practicing at the team's facility in EL Segundo.

In just his first game as a Laker, Blake hit the game-winner and Jackson chose him to play the entire fourth quarter instead of Derek Fisher. And in just the first month of the season, Blake shot a sizzling 47.8% from three-point range. All signs indicated that Blake, who signed with the Lakers last off-season to a four-year, $16-million deal, could be a reliable playmaker off the bench, a dependable outside shooter and possibly even eat into Fisher's minutes.

But none of that happened. Blake's shooting regressed to a 35.9% mark, his lowest shooting percentage for the eight-year veteran since the 2006-07 season. His 20 minutes a game barely threatened Fisher's rotation. And that swagger Blake quickly developed at the beginning of the season soon sagged into a tentativeness that remained consistent for most of the 2010-2011 campaign. He could never seem to reverse course. 

"I never felt like I got to playing the best that I could be," Blake said. "I can't really explain why. But I was comfortable. I loved my teammates, loved my coaches. But I never found my stride and continued in it. I just hit in stretches."

As disappointing as Blake's showing in his first season as a Laker turned out to be, fans shouldn't be suddenly wishing the Lakers had kept Jordan Farmar. He may have jolted the bench, shown more aggressiveness in his opportunities and provided a few showcase games. But with a team that already had issues with individual glory, having a bench player mostly concerned about his own performance wouldn't have helped in any way. In that sense, Blake proved the consummate teammate, knowing his standing in the scoring hierarchy, showing up early to pregame shootarounds to improve his stroke and never causing any locker room friction.

But he followed that blueprint almost to a fault. As much as the Lakers' offense centers around Kobe Bryant's scoring tendencies and the inside production from Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, the Lakers still need dependable options in case any of those four players have bad nights. The Lakers' 112-110 season-opening win against Houston illustrated that point as Blake and Shannon Brown mostly led a comeback effort when everyone else faltered. The Lakers didn't have that consistent luxury with Blake, who remained tentative with his shooting despite the coaching staff and teammates encouraging him to take open shots. It wasn't a matter of reaching a shooting quota. After all, Blake's zero of five mark from three-point range in the Lakers' 93-81 Game 2 Western Conference semifinal loss to the Dallas Mavericks provided good reason on why he mostly remained tentative.

That discomfort seemed apparent in mostly every facet of the game. With the exception of his return game from the chickenpox, when he provided five assists in the Lakers' 100-86 Game 2 first-round victory over New Orleans, Blake rarely ran the sets with the same ferocity and comfort level that he initially showed. Blake surely knew and ran the triangle well, but his shooting limitations hurt his playmaking abilities since opponents knew it wouldn't be a problem giving him open outside shots. 

By no means were Blake's problems the most detrimental to the Lakers' three-peat chances, but with a veteran-heavy roster that needed any rest it could get, Blake's inconsistency fit the larger picture where Jackson didn't have any reserve outside of Lamar Odom to eat up heavy minutes. The consequences may not have been transparent in the stat sheet and could've been absorbed had the Lakers sharpened in other areas. But the Lakers would've been a much more dangerous team had the Blake that hit game winners, had a dependable outside shot and ate Fisher's minutes existed throughout most of the season. But that was simply wishful thinking. 

--Mark Medina

[email protected]

Photo: Steve Blake. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / U.S. Presswire

 
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5-game suspension?

$25,000 fine?

Nonsense!

The moron should be in jail for assault.
Big tough dude.
The prick didn't even look back to see if Barea was moving.

Barea is too nice a guy, but I'm not.
At about the same size, give me a 33 oz. Louisville slugger to even things out,
and let me share a cage with the punk for about 30-seconds.

Lakers fans, forever classless, love this guy!

I strongly believe that JVG is on top of the list of the Lakers next head coach. He is a product of Pat Riley. Word is that if Spoelstra doesn't get it done in these years playoffs or doesn't show improvement next season; either Riley is going to coach the Heat or is going to hire JVG. Why has JVG not coached in the past 3 years? He wants to coach, he is waiting for the right job.
Why wouldn't Buss hire him? He is defensive minded, allows his stars to call their own plays, and his coaching job doesn't cost more than 4 mil. Oh and he has taken his team to the Finals with basically no superstars (yeah I know the lockout season of 99).

Kenny Smith was right that with this team you make some minor changes but not blow it up like magic suggested. Kobe endorsing Shaw is all the reason to get somebody else. Phil with his 11 rings should never had allow kobe to run over him like he did. LA needs a strong coach who will be able and willing to pull kobe if he is going renegade. I know kobe reads the Priest comments. Kobe the reason you are now watching the playoffs from home is because of your selfishness. Dr. Buss provided you with the most talented basketball known to man and you screwed it up with your obsession with stats. All Dr. Buss required you to do was show leadership and provide encouragement to your mere mortal teammates. But you felt that you were too good and important for that task. The reason you encourage and defer to your teammates is that it builds chemistry and the guys will go to war for you. When LO, Pau, Bynum and Artest play at their best LA is hard to beat and with you being the superstar you will ultimately get the glory. What the Priest saw in Dalas was a discouraged team who have had enough of your selfishness. Pau went on strike to show you that you needed him. Kobe stop being dumb brother.

Look at LBJ. At this stage he is far superior to you Kobe but guys enjoy playing with him. See the Big Z. Because he is a willing passer and encourages them. Remember the christmas day massacre he dropped a triple double on our heads. LBJ is hybrid of magic and jordan. He is the superstar but he can relate to his mere mortal teammates (except wade) something you could never do. I am sure he have his guys over in his backyard for barbecue and pool parties. Do you ever bring your team over to your house for a get together kobe? No. I looked at the previous cavs teams and heat team and what i saw and see is a brotherhood. What i see with the lakers is individuals because you the best player is consumed about who eats first. I was LBJ's fiercest critic but he will get his first ring and silence the critics and then his stats will speak for themselves. But at his core he is an unlefish megastar and will be officially crowned King James sometime in June 2011.

Does the once mighty Los Angeles Times still employ proof readers and editors?

"In just his second practice in training camp, Lakers guard Steve Blake impressed the coaching staff and teammates so much of his understanding of the triangle offense that Ron Artest asked Coach Phil Jackson if he had been spent plenty of his summer days practicing at the team's facility in EL Segundo."

"In just his first game as a Laker, Blake hit the game winner and Jackson played chose him to play the entire fourth quarter instead of Derek Fisher." Really?

Blake's performance was an utter disappointment. Same for Barnes. What was even more disappointing is that both players were supposed to be examples of 'how it's done' in free agency: find role players who fill a niche, play hard, and would rather (at this stage in their careers) be part of a championship atmosphere than take a max contract for an overpaying losing squad. Like Laker teams in the past, or even the Celtics of '08, Blake and Barnes (and Ratliff, to a much lesser degree) were supposed to make the bench hungrier, more focused and disciplined. Defensive scrappy stoppers who could hit a big three or energize the bench in spurts, and players you felt safe with while the starters got a rest.

Instead? Below average, across the board. 'C-' is the perfect grade for Blake. What a waste.

MM,

Considering all the comments and rumors about Gasol and his girlfriend probs posted on the blog I'm surprised you didn't post this info.

==========

"Gasol was tired of hearing how his girlfriend was connected in any way to his poor play, let alone the demise of the Lakers' season. An unsourced report last week on a website said Gasol and his girlfriend broke up, and that Gasol blamed a "teammate's wife" for facilitating the breakup by not talking Gasol's girlfriend out of it.

The problem with that story: Gasol and his girlfriend never broke up.

Silvia Lopez Castro was at all five playoff games this spring at Staples Center. She sat next to Gasol's mother last Wednesday in Game 2 of the West semifinals.

"It's ridiculous," Gasol said Tuesday. "We never even had any altercations. Nothing. It was definitely not founded on anything true. She's been very supportive and she's been there for me during this tough time."

The "tough time" would be his ragged play since the end of the regular season."

This is much too nicer analysis of the Blake situation. Let's call it as it is: the Blake acquisition was a total bust. And the fault should go to Mitch Kupchak. The most important factor in evaluating a player is his character. Blake is mentally weak. Mitch Kupchak should have spotted his weaknesses given his the records in NBA. I am NOT saying that I or anyone else could have spotted, but Kupchak should have. It's his job. In fact Kupchak has been doing a poor job in assembling bench players for the team in past few years. The most damaging part is that he has signed players to long term deals. The current Lakers roster is most suitable for the triangle offense. And we can succeed with the system if we have couple of reliable outside shooters. But we don't and those long term deals limit our options for good acquisitions.

When you have a scoring hierarchy, you have to rely on those scorers at the top. If one of those players happens to be Pau Gasol, then you'r screwed.

If you have an offense where everyone is expected to contribute, you have a more balanced approached.

Another one of the Laker's issues is this "totem pole" "hierarchy" mentality that dictates who may, and who may not contribute to the offense. The Dallas Mavs have multiple players that can, and did, score freely in the offense. The Lakers?

Maybe this is why any guard that comes to the 'prior' Laker system (the one for the past several years with Phil) have floundered and have basically said the same thing, about not feeling comfortable within the offense. You can make a laundry list of Laker guards, present and past, that have failed to produce in Phil and Kobe's offensive system. This must be addressed.

The worst part of the triangle is that makes some players think too much. The athletes abilities are based on subconscious movements. Why some players fail when the pressure is on them? because they think too much and their natural movements are spoiled by the intrussion of the brain.
Why i don't like the triangle?
1- Needs an adjustment time (Gasol was a rare exception), and some players never adjust.
2- Some good players look very bad in it (Artest)
3- Makes Luke look good LOL
4- Makes a player think too much and can ate up the player confidence in himself and/or his abilities.

I think the late one affected Pau too, between other things.

Why i liked the triangle?
1- Championships
2- Championships
3- Championships

Maybe Shaw can use a light version of it.

Why i don't like Shaw?
1- Because Kobe wants him. Kobe did wathever he wanted under Phil. Phil spoiled him. I never saw him pulling him off because of doing stupid things outside the offense. And i think he will do the same things under Shaw.
2- Is expected that he will use the triangle again.

Maybe the worst part of the triangle were accentuated by Phil's personality and age. I don't know.

I only hope that we get a coach who will not be afraid of Kobe, can play defense and use an offensive system that suits the players.

GO LAKERS!!!

So, here is another case where the FO (who knows who really has majority say up there - MK?; JimB?; JerryB?) has a huge problem. They can't really count on him and they can't get rid of his contract. This is the reason Magic says 'blow this team up'. As much as I wish that could be so, just to light a spark under many underachievers on this team, there is no way to do it with the current CBA, and certainly even harder with the upcoming CBA which promises to be even more restrictive! Obviously the team must be (re?)built around the still-superstar that is Kobe (waning a bit, but still top 5 or so in this league), but the new coaches style will dictate the tweaks that the FO may desire to pursue.

At $4.0 million per season, Blake simply didn't provide nearly enough bang for his bucks on offense or defense. Everyone keeps saying that Blake was at least some improvement over Farmar. But he wasn't nearly enough of an improvement, and most of us fans (and the team) were looking for a much bigger improvement over the previous seasons. Not elimination in the second round.

At least Farmar and SaVu really, really wanted to win, and sometimes each made stupid blunders toward that end. Blake seemed more concerned to not lose. And both of those two were sufficiently younger than Blake. Blake was yet another player that made the team older, not sufficiently better to warrant his 4-year contract.

IF KOBE BRYANT IS THE BLACK MAMBA, THEN STEVE BLAKE IS THE WHITE GARDEN SNAKE.......HARMLESS.

At the beginning of the season, I really thought Blake's 3-point shooting is just what the dr. ordered but we all know differently now. The same can be said for S. Brown but his athleticism masked his inconsistent outside shooting and ballhandling (his handle is barely average at best except on breakaways). LA had 2 of the worst evils - very erratic outside shooting and lack of athleticism which made them look old not to mention the Bench Mob had become a one-man gang in Odom by the end of the season. Of course I was pulling for them but I knew in the back of my mind something was amiss. Is Dallas that good to have taken our team 4-love? NO, but the perfect storm had developed for the Mavs to take advantage of and that they did - a shadow of doubt in the minds of LA (bad sign when trying to win), no outside shooting, no perimeter defense to stop the 3-pt barrage (they are good at outside shooting but not that darn good), and a certain power forward whose mind was definitely elsewhere. The cogs of any team work in unison and if one of the main cogs gets a kink in it, the rest of the machine will surely fall. Hopefully when Kupchak goes to address these concerns which are not insurmountable, they will come back strong. Bottom line - this will be a hot and cruel summer, especially if that collusional team from South Beach holds up the O'Brien.

MM
Dude, proof read! I can't even make sense of the first paragraph.

In fairness to Blake, I don't think he had enough time playing with the starting unit. It's different when you are with players who already know the system versus playing with the new players from the bench who are also learning the system. That is why Pau was able to blend into the system more quickly; he was playing with the starting unit who already knew all the intricacies of the playbook.

instead of some blame game,or joining the church of woulda,coulda, shoulda,we would be better served as lakerholics to be grateful for the run. we were hoping to get one more parade out of this group to have a hollywood ending. unfortunately, reality and a good number of hungry,young good-great players got in the run.after being very down, i tried to make the lemonade out of this. what i have found what has helped me is the realization that i love basketball more than i love the lakers, so i could even appreciate how the mavs moved that ball. looked familiar, didn't it.so enjoy the rest of the playoffs.

THERE IS A SAYING, BE CAREFUL FOR WHAT YOU WISH FOR, BECAUSE IT MIGHT NOT BE WHAT YOU NEED. I WAS GLAD WHEN THE LAKERS CHOOSE STEVE BECAUSE I FOLLOWED THIS YOUNG MAN'S CAREER IN HIGH SCHOOL AND HE WAS A "BEAST". EVEN THOUGH HE DIDN'T PLAY HIS BEST GAMES IN THE PLAYOFFS. I NOW THERE IS A SIDE TO STEVE BLAKE THA'TS ROARING TO COM E OUT AND I HOPE THE LAKERS GIVE HIM ANOTHER CHANCE NEXT YEAR. I FEEL THERE'S A LOT MORE THAN HAS MET THE EYE. PSALMS 100

No more excuses for this team or individual players. Jerry et al wasted $91 Million and Cuban got more bang for his buck with Dallas. End of Story.

The team and players suffered a myriad of problems that weren't properly addressed by the coaching staff. In essence: you had the patients running the asylum.

-practice makes perfect and this team did not have perfect practices and we all know why. Injuries, age and other issues prevented this team from practicing as a team. Practicing in games obviously didn't cut it.

-whether individual players want to admit or not, there was too much extracurricular activities that distracted them from their primary job: win another championship. Artest and his "Peanut Butter" rap song and asinine auction; Fisher with his idiotic Presidential duties with the union; Lamar's idiotic "reality" show and pitching a waste of a fragrance; Bynum's genetic "Q Angle" malfunction and silly exercise video; Shannon's marriage to some musician; Pau's epic meltdown in the playoffs due to "false" rumors and the distractions just went on and unchecked by the coaching staff. This team was not focused during and after the "practice season" son now they get to enjoy an early vacation.

Talk about a wasted opportunity. If this team did their job, they would have had plenty of time to recuperate during the off season due to the impending and probable lock-out.

The FO will figure out who is "movable" before they decide on a system and coach. They'll have time because it's going to be a "short season" and quite frankly, I don't even care if there is a season. Bynum missing 5 games and a $25K fine totaling over $700K which will leave him with a measly $14.5 Million to get by next year. Yeah, it's time for a new CBA.

i don't think blaker was ever given the chance to flourish with the starting lineup. with his pass first mentality and ability to drive and kick and shoot the ball, i think he would've been a superior asset to complement the starting five.

i think the low minutes and ragged play from everyone on the team contributed to blaker's eventual post all star break demise.

i'd give him another chance.

i really really want d12 for bynum though. lol.

F.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!

>>>As disappointing as Blake's showing in his first season as a Laker turned out
>>>to be, fans shouldn't be suddenly wishing the Lakers had kept Jordan
>>>Farmar. He may have jolted the bench, shown more aggressiveness in his
>>>opportunities and provided a few showcase games.

Totally have to disagree with you.

Blake flat out sucked in the playoffs.
His defense on Terry &/or Barea was non-existant
He shot 23% for the Dallas series, but mostly seemed afraid to shoot, even if he was wide open.
He doesn't have the ability to blow past his man and get to the rim and finish or dish for an assist.

Farmar would have provided at least a TINY bit more defense on the fast Dallas guards, he would have taken shots when he was wide open, he would have shot a higher percentage, and he DOES have the ability to get by his man to get to the rim - as he did REPEATEDLY in last years playoffs, even against the Celtics.

The Lakers lost one game by TWO POINTS. and another game by 6 points.

The difference between just okay backup PG play and absolute stinkage could have meant the series was tied 2-2 instead of a sweep at this point.

This is once again revisionist history by people who want to discount the contributions of role players who really did help the Lakers win championships.

Yes, Kobe, Pau, Drew, and Lamar were the key people responsible for winning the two rings. But there were times during the last 3 playoff runs where one or more of those guys didn't com through, and one or more of the role players stepped it up and made up the difference so that the Lakers still won games. Blake DID NOT DO THAT.

Stop dismissing guys like Farmar and Sasha and Blake and Luke and Powell like they were waterboys. Those guys all performed and had an impact in winning one or more playoff games. Blake didn't. Barnes helped in two games vs New Orleans and game 1 vs Dallas, but overall the bench wasn't good enough to make up for when Kobe or Pau or Drew or Lamar had bad games. That is a big difference between the 2009-2010 championship teams and the swept-in-the-second-round 2011 team.

STEVE BLAKE DESERVES A GRADE: D
A TOTAL FAILURE ACTUALLY. I CAN ONLY HOPE HE DOES NOT RETURN NEXT YEAR AS A LAKER!!!

>>>Kenny Smith was right that with this team you make some minor changes
>>>but not blow it up like magic suggested.

And it depends on what you mean by "blow it up".

If by "blow it up", you mean dump everybody and start rebuilding from scratch, then of course that's crazy talk.

I think what Magic was suggesting was trading one of the core players - either Bynum or Pau (or maybe Odom) to change things up. You've gotta admit, Lamar and Pau didn't play all that well this series. Could partly be that they're fat & happy with two rings and thus aren't quite as motivated. Or it could be a clash of egos as the Kobe-ranters would have you believe. Or it could be that Pau was all weak in the knees because his girlfriend dumped him and Lamar was too busy with reality TV to focus on playing basketball.

Whatever.

But the fact is that sometimes bringing in fresh blood to a team that already has one or more rings brings in new inspiration. Artest was the new blood in 2010, and he added a new intensity on defense. Maybe they need some other new blood in the starting lineup (certainly at the PG position).

But to get a new blood starter, you've got to give up a quality player... which is effectively blowing the team up.

What it comes down to is whether or not you believe that Pau and Lamar and Artest and Fisher and Bynum (and Kobe) can get re-focused and get back to that top level next year.

If you believe that, then just use the MLE and trades to find a new role player or 2 or 3. i.e minor changes

If you don't believe they can get back to winning rings, for whatever reason, then dump one of them off and bring in a new starter who doesn't have ANY rings and who's going to play out of his mind in EVERY GAME next spring/summer to try and GET one... i.e. blow the team up.

BTW.

The Showtime teams "blew the team up" regularly.

In 1980, the Lakers championship starting lineup was Kareem, Wilkes, Norm Nixon, Magic, and Jim Chones.

The next season, they lost in the first round. So for the `82 champions, they brought in Bob McAdoo and Mitch Kupchack.

They lucked into James Worthy (new blood) in 1983 and got to the finals but lost.

So in the summer of `83, they "blew the team up" and traded Norm Nixon for Byron Scott.

So they kept MOST of the core - Magic and Kareem, but traded some key players (Nixon for Scott), and brought in new players who eventually replaced other starters (Worthy for Wilkes).

And the last Celtics dynasty did it as well. As well as the Bulls - they kept Jordan and Pippen, but changed the pieces around them several times.

So don't fear "blowing up the team". The words sound harsh. Maybe you'd feel better if you thought of it as "re-tooling the team". And if it means Bynum or Lamar or Pau is gone, then don't be bitter - focus on the good things that the new blood might bring to the team.

>>>In fairness to Blake, I don't think he had enough time playing with the starting unit.

Same problem Jordan faced. And I agree with you. I'd have played Blake more and Fisher less.

Personally, if I was the coach I would have replaced Fisher with Farmar in the 2009 season... at least for awhile to see if he could perform as well as Fish (or hopefully better).

On the other hand, if I was the coach, they might not have won championships in either 2009 or 2010.

It's easy to play armchair GM or armchair coach. It's hard to win back-to-back championships. Mitch & Phil did that. We didn't.

>>>I NOW THERE IS A SIDE TO STEVE BLAKE THA'TS ROARING TO COM E
>>>OUT AND I HOPE THE LAKERS GIVE HIM ANOTHER CHANCE NEXT YEAR.

I hope so. I don't think the Lakers can afford to bring in TWO new PGs, and I think replacing Fisher might be a priority. So unless Blake goes out in a trade, they'll need more effective play from him as backup PG.

>>>STEVE BLAKE DESERVES A GRADE: D
>>>A TOTAL FAILURE ACTUALLY

I wouldn't go that far.

I'd give him a C+ for the regular season, and a D for the playoffs. But a C- overall seems fair.

Here's a thought, why don't they get someone who can teach them how to play some pick and roll defense for a change? And maybe guard the perimeter better when guys are shooting 3 after 3 pt shots? Did Phil ever practice defense with this team?

Steve Blake - C-

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? He Deserves an F to say the least. The guy played terrible all year, HE SUCKS!!! I have no sympathy... he makes more than JJ BAREA and JJ made Blake look like a HS JV Player... BLAKE SUCKS. He cost us game 2 - 20 mins...0 for 5 three pointers and 2 turnovers.

HE GETS AN "F" and trade him!!!

Steve Blake's biggest problem is that he never drives the ball to the basket. Sometimes all a point guard has to do is put the ball on the rim and let his bigs offensive rebound. It can be as effective as a pass. Blake needs to work on a teardrop shot and become more determined to drive the ball and break down defenses. He had a very disappointing year and at times looked downright terrified in the Dallas series.


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