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Category: Steve Blake

Steve Blake appears sharper in Lakers' win over Portland

With the shot clock winding down, Steve Blake found himself with hardly enough time to react, let alone release a shot.

Portland guard Nicolas Batum blocked his mid-range jumper with two seconds left, but Blake still found a way. The ball landed in his hands, he stepped behind the arc and nailed a three-pointer from the right wing.

Plenty of other things demanded attention in the Lakers' 103-92 victory Monday at Staples Center over the Trail Blazers. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak released a statement stating the organization will conduct business leading into the March 15 trading deadline without input from Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. With better ball movement, a 35-7 first-quarter lead offered a temporary refuge from Bryant's frustration with the front office and Gasol's uncertain playing future. The Lakers earned a double-digit victory just a night after losing by a similar margin to the Phoenix Suns on the road, further illustrating the team's disparity between playing at home (14-2) and away (5-11).

But Blake's three-pointer, which gave the Lakers a 74-55 third-quarter lead, revealed everything about his season-high 17 points on six-of-nine shooting overall (and five-of-six mark from three-point range) in 21 minutes. It showcased his quick reaction time, his rhythm and his sharp shooting — three elements that appeared absent in the past five games after returning from a rib injury that had kept him sidelined for 13 games. Blake averaged five points on 31.4% shooting during that stretch, a sharp contrast to the 7.3 points on 40.2% shooting he provided through 12 games before his injury.

"I wasn't totally 100%," Blake said about his return. "There were parts of my game I couldn't do. Changing direction fast was tough for me. I'm getting able to do that again. Being weaker than I was, I hadn't been able to lift weights for a month and really get my body to the condition I need it to be. I'm starting to get back to where I was before I got hurt."

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Lakers face hurdles in signing J.R. Smith

The Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan reports that the Lakers are pursuing free agent J.R. Smith
--The Times' Mike Bresnahan reports that the Lakers are pursuing free agent J.R. Smith, but that they can offer him only about $450,000, the prorated portion of the veterans' minimum. Smith made $6.8 million last season with Denver. Bresnahan mentions that New York, Chicago, Indiana, Orlando and the Clippers are also pursuing Smith.

--The Times' Baxter Holmes mentions that Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro had a recent conversation with Smith.

--Sheridan Hoops' Mark Heisler ranks the Lakers at No. 9 in his power rankings. 

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy Kamenetzky says he doesn't understand why Devin Ebanks hasn't cracked the rotation. 

--The Times' Chris Erskine compares Lakers fans with Clippers fans.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin notices that the Lakers had more fun playing Atlanta after seeing Jeremy Lin's heroics. 

--The Daily News' Elliott Teaford explains how Steve Blake's return helps the Lakers. 

--Fox Sports' Chris Tomasson reports that the Minnesota Timberwolves have offered Derrick Williams and draft picks to the Lakers for Pau Gasol. 

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell talks with NBA-TV's Rick Kamla about the best players to interview. 

--Silver Screen and Roll's wondahbap argues that the Lakers are a deeply flawed team. 

Tweet of the Day: "The NBA should use the couch Jeremy Lin slept on as some sort of obstacle in the All-Star skills competition." -- ZachLowe_SI (Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe)

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "Amazing, how a relative nothing like Smith, who went away to play in China like unwanted baseball players go to Japan, has become the object of the Lakers' search for the holy grail. And that they still may not be able to secure him! Sure, he can help out in several ways. But it sounds like they're banking on JR Smith to be the missing piece that will save the season for them. The state of the Lakers as a contender has become pathetic." -- Craig Hill

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: J.R. Smith, then with the Denver Nuggets, battles for a loose ball with Lakers Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant in 2010. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times 

Five things to take from Lakers' 93-89 win in Denver

Lakers31. An important road win against a conference playoff contender. Let's start with the biggest positive of the night: a quality win on the road against a conference opponent. So it wasn't pretty, but the Lakers still went on the road to beat the Nuggets, 93-89. When they want to know whether you won or lost, they ask how many, not how well you played. The Nuggets (15-8) have proven to be a formidable opponent since the departure of Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks as well as Kenyon Martin (now of the Clippers) and J.R. Smith to China. Just as impressive, the Lakers (14-9) overcame some controversial calls, or non-calls, to earn the victory and move up in the Western Conference standings.

2. Broken record: The Lakers need to execute better on offense. Once again, the Lakers continued to have breakdowns in running their offensive sets, often resulting in poor-quality possessions that ended with rushed shots at the end of the 24-second clock. And with Andrew Bynum running hot, how can he end the game with only 13 shots? The Lakers continually failed to get him the ball when he had great post position. A couple of scenarios in the game included the Lakers' two most veteran players -- guards Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant -- failing to get Bynum the ball when he had established himself on the block. Bryant ended up driving wildly into the lane and hoisting an off-balance shot on more than one occasion.

3. Broken record II: The Lakers need to improve their transition defense. Too many times the Nuggets were able to get down the court for easy layups. And that included big men Nene and Timofey Mozgov as well as the speedy Ty Lawson and other perimeter players. The Nuggets are primarily a young and athletic team, and they're not the only one in the West that will torch teams in transition if defenses aren't paying attention. Think Thunder, Clippers, Blazers, Jazz, Warriors, etc.

PHOTOS: Lakers vs. Nuggets

4. Broken record III: Kobe Bryant needs to know when to defer to the big men. Bynum made 10 of 13 shots for 22 points while collecting 10 rebounds and Pau Gasol was five of 10 from the field for 13 points while pulling down 17 rebounds. It became obvious as the game unfolded that the Lakers had the advantage on the front line. When your two big men are shooting better than 65% combined, they need to take more than 23 shots in the game.

5. Andrew Goudelock continues to impress. The rookie guard made six of 10 shots, including one of three from three-point range, for 13 points, his fourth double-digit effort in the last five games. When Steve Blake returns to the lineup, the Lakers' backcourt will have more weapons and depth, plus the ability to give more rest to Fisher and Bryant.

RELATED:

Lakers avoid stumble at start of road trip

GM Mitch Kupchak remains positive despite road woes

Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum lead the L.A. All-Star contingent

--Dan Loumena

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives the baseline for a reverse layup in front of the rim against the Nuggets in the second half Friday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Credit: Jack Dempsey / Associated Press

Steve Blake to miss Lakers-Cavaliers game

6a00d8341c506253ef0162ff7859b0970d-320wiLakers guard Steve Blake will be sidelined Friday night when the Lakers host the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center because of fractured cartilage that connects the rib to the sternum.

The Lakers currently list him as day-to-day; an MRI Thursday revealed the fracture. Still, Coach Mike Brown said he's leaning toward sitting Blake on Saturday when the Clippers host the Lakers at Staples Center for "precautionary reasons."

"It's sore," Blake said on his way out of the Lakers' practice facility. "It's about the same as it was. Everyday life stuff hurts. Breathing, throwing, anything like that.".

The team indicated Blake suffered the injury during the Lakers' 99-83 victory Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns, but Blake said he couldn't recall a specific play that made him feel sore after the game.

Blake aggravated it during the Lakers' 90-87 overtime victory over the Utah Jazz after making an awkward twist late in the third quarter. Blake left that game with 21 seconds remaining in the third quarter and favored his midsection while Lakers trainer Gary Vitti attended him on the sideline. Although Blake returned to the bench, he didn't play the rest of the game.

"Even if he makes a hard move, it can hurt him or bother him," Brown said of Blake, who can't participate in any on-court activity and rehab efforts involve icing and resting.

Despite Blake's absence, the Lakers enter Friday's game against Cleveland with more depth. Forwards Josh McRoberts, Jason Kapono and Troy Murphy participated in drills during morning shoot-around, and Brown believes all three will play. Kapono is definite; his two-game absence was not because of injury but because of the birth of his twin daughters. Brown said the Lakers' training staff will reevaluate McRoberts (sprained left big toe) and Murphy (gastroenteritis) before tipoff.

Still, Blake's absence severely hurts the Lakers' backcourt. Blake has averaged 7.3 points on 40.2% shooting and has often eaten into Derek Fisher's playing time, as the Lakers' starter has struggled with his shooting and conditioning. Rookie point guard Darius Morris  played in his first NBA game against Utah, posting four points with two assists and two turnovers in 13 minutes, an effort Brown said was a "nice job."

Brown hopes to keep Fisher at around 28 minutes and Morris at 20, but said that will hinge on their on-court performance. 

"You never want to see someone go down, and unfortunately Blake is injured," Morris said. "But I'm looking forward to maximizing my opportunity."

RELATED:

Steve Blake feels more confident in his shot

Steve Blake flexible with any role

 --Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Steve Blake shows some discomfort during Wednesday's game against the Utah Jazz. Credit: George Frey / EPA /

Mike Brown compares Kobe Bryant and LeBron James

 

The Times' Ben Bolch notes Mike Brown's belief that Kobe Bryant is more "serious-minded" than LeBron James

--The Times' Ben Bolch notes Mike Brown's belief that Kobe Bryant is more "serious-minded" than LeBron James.

--The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Schmitt Boyer talks to Brown about how he's adjusting to the Lakers. 

--The Orange County Register's Janis Carr says she believes that Andrew Bynum has a strong chance to make the All-Star team.

--Ball Don't Lie's Kelly Dwyer says he loves the story lines surrounding Bryant and James. 

--ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky explains why Steve Blake's rib injury severely hurts the Lakers at point guard.

--The Daily News' Elliott Teaford argues that the Lakers' next three games against Cleveland, the Clippers and Dallas could be emotional. Brown used to coach the Cavs, the Lakers nearly landed Clippers guard Chris Paul and former Laker Lamar Odom was traded to the Mavericks.

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell does some number-crunching regarding Bryant's scoring.

--Silver Screen and Roll's C.A. Clark argues that the Lakers need Dwight Howard's teammates more than they need Howard.

Tweet of the Day: "The Lakers have just 5 home games in the next 32 days." -- ESPNChrisPalmer (Chris Palmer, ESPN The Magazine NBA writer)

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "The Lakers need to get themselves a pointguard someone who's going to put the bigs in a better position to score. Kobe contolling the ball takes the effectiveness away from Pau and Bynum. It's great Kobe is scoring lots of points but Kobe is not playing team ball. He's more concern about trying to catch Shaq." -- Ronald A. Mitchell 

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers Coach Mike Brown and Kobe Bryant. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Steve Blake considered day-to-day with rib injury

67321159It's possible the Lakers will lose yet another player on their depleted roster when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday at Staples Center.

An MRI exam Thursday revealed guard Steve Blake has a costrochaondral fracture, which is the portion of the cartilage that connects the rib to the sternum. The Lakers are listing him as day-to-day. The team indicated Blake suffered the injury during the Lakers' 99-83 victory Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns, and then later aggravated it during the Lakers' 90-87 overtime victory over the Utah Jazz.

Blake left that game with 21 seconds left in the third quarter and favored his midsection while Lakers trainer Gary Vitti attended him on the sideline. Although Blake returned to the bench, he didn't play the rest of the game. 

The Lakers have already experienced plenty of absences with their personnel. Forward Josh McRoberts has missed the past six games because of a sprained big toe in his left foot. Forward Troy Murphy hat sat out the past two because gastroenteritis, while forward Jason Kapono remained absent for those games well for personal reasons involving the recent birth of his twin girls. Meanwhile, reserve forward Derrick Caracter has remained sidelined since the beginning of training camp because of a torn meniscus in his left knee, but the Lakers expect to clear him for running exercises by the end of this week. 

Blake's possible absence hinders or even limitation severely weakens the Lakers' backcourt. Blake has averaged 7.3 points on 40.2% shooting and has often eaten into Derek Fisher's playing time, as the Lakers' starter has struggled with his shooting and conditioning. Rookie point guard Darius Morris played in his first NBA game against Utah, posting four points on a two of two clip, two assists and two turnovers in 13 minutes. 

RELATED:

Steve Blake feels more confident in his shot

Steve Blake flexible with any role

Steve Blake changes his shooting stroke

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers guard Steve Blake is assisted by a team trainer after suffering an injury during Wednesday's overtime victory against the Utah Jazz. Credit: George Frey / EPA / January 11, 2012

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." 

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Mike Brown admits struggles in handling compacted schedule

As he headed toward the trainer's room Monday, Lakers guard Derek Fisher simply shook his head. 

The Lakers' game tonight against the Phoenix Suns marks the second contest of a five-game stretch this week, leaving them with a late-night flight to Utah for Wednesday's game and Monday and Thursday as the only practice days. A reporter pointed out that next week's schedule of games against Dallas (Jan. 16), at Miami (Jan. 19) and at Orlando (Jan. 20) at least gives them four practice days. But that hardly assuaged Fisher's concerns.

When Coach Mike Brown stepped out toward the Lakers' practice court, Fisher said the following within earshot: "This week, we say we wish we had more practices, but when the practices come next week, we're going to say we need more rest."

Brown, Fisher and a small group of reporters laughed at the thought process, but it epitomizes an approach to this year's compacted schedule that Brown admits he's struggled handling. 

"I've been trying to teach and learn and all that, while not trying to do too much," he said. "But I have done that at times."

That's included three-hour practices. A few that were open to reporters included hourlong shooting sessions. After training camp started Dec. 9, the Lakers didn't have a single day off until Dec. 28, after playing three games on consecutive nights.

Brown initially wanted an even more intense schedule, but scrapped some of those plans. Instead of having six two-a-day sessions during training camp, the Lakers had three. Brown reduced the playbook to a third of its original size, and he has tried to limit recent morning shootarounds to no longer than 90 minutes. 

"We knew it was going to be a challenge," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. We knew we would face adversity first. We knew all that coming in."

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Lakers-Bulls: How the final plays failed

You can fault the Lakers' learning curve concerning Mike Brown's new system, wonder how Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts can miss a combined four free throws, or lament the drop in the team's talent level.

Regardless, the Lakers wouldn't have suffered an 88-87 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Christmas Day had they not executed miserably in their last two possessions. Here's how it went down.

Play: Kobe Bryant's failed pass to Gasol

What happened: Once he received an inbounds pass from Metta World Peace, Bryant met a double-team at midcourt from Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Instead of holding on to the ball and possibly drawing a foul, Bryant looked to pass. Steve Blake was covered at the timeline. World Peace stood idle on the corner with little separation from Luol Deng. Derek Fisher appeared open at the top of the key, while Gasol appeared open near the left block. As soon as Bryant passed the ball, however, Deng fronted Gasol and stole the ball. The Lakers led 87-86 with 17.6 seconds remaining.

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Things to take away from Lakers' 88-87 loss to Chicago Bulls

Lakers3_600

1. The Lakers blew the game in the final two minutes. The Lakers 88-87 loss Sunday to the Chicago Bulls points to the horrible execution in the final minute. Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts both missed two fre throws. Kobe Bryant was wrongfully called for a personal foul on Luol Deng. Bryant committed a costly turnover. Derrick Rose then blew past both Derek Fisher and Gasol for a running-hook shot that gave the Bulls a 88-87 lead with 4.8 seconds remaining. Bryant could'n't provide any heroics, as his game-winning shot was blocked by Deng as time expired.

2. The Lakers can't handle the ball. Despite his relentless optimism about his team, Lakers Coach Mike Brown acknowledged being uncertain about whether the Lakers can reduce the 21.5 turnovers they averaged in two preseason games. They cut it to 16 turnovers, but it was a few too many, particularly in the final minutes.

3. The Lakers' early season success hinges on effort. This game hardly looked pretty, but it was winnable. This shows that the Lakers will have to simply outwork teams while still mastering Brown's system. The Lakers have the talent to do that, but they often lacked a grinding mentality in previous seasons. 

4. Bryant maintained aggressiveness despite wrist injury. He didn't follow Fisher's prediction that he'd open the game by shooting a 22-footer to prove his right wrist is healthy. Despite not wearing any device to protect the torn lunotriquetral ligament, Bryant maintained his aggressiveness and showed that it wouldn't affect his play or shot.

Bryant finished with 28 points on 11-of-23 shooting shooting in 35 minutes, attacking the basket as he would in any other game. He drove in for a reverse layup past Bulls guard Ronnie Brewer and Noah. He ran high pick-and-roll sets with Pau Gasol. He looked comfortable shooting pull-up jumpers. He even stole a pass with his right hand and connected with Derek Fisher on a fast break. 

It's obvious that Bryant's wrist injury at least partly contributed to his eight turnovers. He often committed those when he ran isolation sets that required a lot of dribbling. Bryant can mitigate that by limiting shots through spot-ups and off-the-ball movement. Still, it was a good showing considering the circumstances Bryant faced. That's why it's fitting Bryant puncuated the night by making a fall-away jumper that gave the Lakers an 87-81 lead with 54.6 seconds remaining.

5. The Lakers' defense appeared in flashes. The Lakers rotated their frontcourt so effectively to ensure Rose stayed out of the paint that he remained scoreless in the first quarter. But that effort didn't hold up as Rose finished with 22 points on eight-of-12 shooting. The Lakers appeared to communicate frequently on closeouts, but Chicago still went seven of 15 from three-point range. The Lakers showed effort defensively. They executed well at times in limiting Rose's drives, Chicago's inside presence and its outside shooting. But it wasn't always consistent.

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