Steve Blake feels more confident in his shot
Instead of passing up shots, Steve Blake's taking them. Instead of feeling inclined to defer to teammates, teammates feel inclined to defer to him. And instead of most of Blake's shots going off the mark, most of them are going in.
The Lakers' backup point guard points to one specific area that has helped him average 8.1 points on 40.3% shooting in 24.4 minutes per game, a sharp increase from last season's average of 4.0 points on a 35.9% clip in 20 minutes.
"I'm comfortable out there," Blake said. "Having fun and staying confident no matter what happens even when I make mistakes. Before, last year, since I was new, I'd make a mistake, I'd back off. Now I can roll with it and keep playing."
It's far too presumptuous to make any sweeping statements. The Lakers (6-4), after all, host the Phoenix Suns tonight at Staples Center with a 10-game sample size. In the first month of last season, Blake had shot a sizzling 47.8% from three-point range, only to see it drop to 37.8%. Blake's 34.1% clip this season from three-point range also falls short of last season's clip and reflects a zero of five effort last week against Portland and a zero of six mark New Year's Eve against Denver.
But even if Lakers Coach Mike Brown said "it hasn't crossed his mind" to start Blake over the struggling veteran Derek Fisher, Blake has shown signs he can at least eat more of his minutes.
That starts with Blake's shooting stroke. He's shot 55% from within 16-23 feet, according to Hoopdata.com. He's added a subtly higher arc to his shot off the point of his release. And his constant pre-game shooting routines and drill work with assistant coach Quin Snyder convinces Brown that Blake has laid down a strong shooting foundation.
"He's confident and he works at it all the time," Snyder said of Blake. "He's got a great fundamental shot. He's getting open looks and knocking them down."
His playmaking abilities has prompted Brown to play Blake more minutes than Fisher in the fourth quarter, including an entire 12-minute set in the Lakers' 108-99 win last week over the Houston Rockets. Blake adamantly feels more comfortable running a more traditional offense than Phil Jackson's triangle offense. And he no longer feels like he has to fit in to avoid stealing away someone else's production.
"Steve and I are in similar boats," said Lakers forward Matt Barnes, who joined the Lakers as a free agent in the 2010 off-season. "We were coming to the Lakers on back-to-back championships and trying to fit in the triangle. We learned the triangle but the counters that Kobe [Bryant] would have or Pau [Gasol] would have or Lamar [Odom] would have, we'd have to react off that. That's where we struggled a bit. But now we're back in a regular offense, getting back there and running and shooting the ball."
And with that, Blake has experienced better results.
"Last year I might have turned down some shots or just let someone else do something instead of creating for my own teammates myself," he said. "The offense allows the point guard to do a little bit more and be more aggressive and make play calls and have a more feel for the game."
E-mail the Lakers blog at email@example.com