Five things that Steve Blake needs for a successful season
This is the seventh part of a series that focuses on five things each Lakers player must do to have a successful 2011-12 season (assuming there is one, of course).
1. Show aggressiveness. When Steve Blake signed a four-year, $16-million deal before last season, many presumed he'd steal Derek Fisher's starting spot. That didn't happen for many reasons, but the main one was his tentativeness. Blake proved to be a quick study in the triangle offense, but he never seemed comfortable with his role. Blake followed the pecking order almost to a fault, preventing him from showing the playmaking and shooting abilities he usually displayed in his eight-year NBA career.
2. Improve outside shooting. Blake's 35.9% clip from the field reflected a larger problem the Lakers exhibited last season. They lacked a definitive outside shooter, going 35.2% from the three-point range in the regular season, 28.9% in the postseason, and 37.5% from shots from within 16-23 feet, according to Hoopdata. Credit Blake for showing up early to pregame warm-ups and for improving his arc this off-season. But Blake also needs to show more confidence and willingness to take those shots to establish rhythm.
3. Sharpen on defense. Everyone has good reason to gripe about Derek Fisher's inability to defend young and speedy point guards. Synergy notes that Fisher finished 306th overall in defending spot-up shooters and 298th in defending players in isolation. But Blake didn't fare much better; he finished 306th overall in defending players in isolation and 230th against spot-up shooters. It's necessary for Blake to improve his conditioning, timing and on-court communication so that he prove a reliable alternative to Fisher's defense.
4. Thrive as a playmaker. Blake should thrive more in an open-court and fast-paced offense. Since Mike Brown's offense will mostly center on Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol getting touches in the post, Blake will feel comfortable showcasing his playmaking abilities. Because many shots will open in transition, Blake will find it easier to provide a scoring punch without feeling forced.
5. Display fiery demeanor. Blake showed this at times last season. He jawed with Dallas guard Jason Terry. In an exhibition game against Utah, Blake nearly came to blows with 7-0, 240-pound Francisco Elson. But Blake didn't display enough of the feistiness that he displayed with other NBA teams and at the University of Maryland. The Lakers don't need a dirty player, but Blake's scrappiness could provide an energy boost.
Five things that ensure a successful season for...
-- Mark Medina
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Photo credit: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times