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Category: Steve Blake

Exit interviews: Steve Blake acknowledges struggles fitting in with the Lakers

LkzwqlncSteve Blake exit interview

Before nearly every game, Lakers guard Steve Blake often proved to be one of the early arrivals and among the first to complete his pre-game shooting. Rarely, however, did that translate on the court, where he averaged only four points per game on 35.9% shooting.

Blake wouldn't divulge what he discussed with Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and General Manager Mitch Kupchak during his exit interview, but he acknowledged he didn't fit in as well as he envisioned when he signed with the Lakers last offseason to a four-year, $16-million deal.

"I never felt like I got to playing the best I could be," Blake said. "There were points where I did. I couldn’t explain why. I was comfortable. I love my teammates. I love my coaches. I never found my stride and activity."

-- Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers guard Steve Blake reflects on the season as he answers reporter's questions about the Lakers season ending and his future with the team at the Laker's practice facility in El Segundo Tuesday. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Lakers bench has a critical role in semifinals series against Dallas

61094395On more than one occasion, Lakers forward Matt Barnes bit his tongue.

He bit it when reporters revisited Barnes' episode with Mavericks guard Jason Terry, whose push on Lakers guard Steve Blake on March 31 sparked Barnes to push him back, earn an ejection and ultimately a one-game suspension. He bit it when reflecting on his time with Golden State in 2007 when the Warriors upset the Dallas Mavericks in the first round as an eighth-seeded team. And he bit it when suggested he personally deliver one of his company T-shirts that reads "Matt Barnes Will Kill You ... If Ron Artest Doesn't First" to Terry himself.

"You guys are trying to get me started," Barnes said with a smile. "I can't do that yet."

Save that for on the court when the Lakers play Game 1 on Monday in their Western Conference semifinal series against Dallas. Save it for the stands at Staples Center where Barnes hopes plenty of Lakers fans wear his T-Shirts sold by Elusion Clothing. And save that perhaps when the Lakers hope they secure a third consecutive NBA championship. But for now, all the intrigue surrounding Barnes and Terry will have to rest with the media, or at least until competition sparks the two to further the animosity even more.

There's plenty more reasons, however, why there's attention surrounding Barnes and Terry. The play of each reserve unit will prove to be a significant factor in the playoff series.

"Their bench is No. 1 in scoring in the league," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said of Dallas' reserve unit. "I don't know if that means they're deeper, but they have a lot of depth on that team."

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Lakers discuss 87-78 Game 2 victory over New Orleans Hornets

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant

Lakers forward Pau Gasol

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Lakers' 87-78 Game 2 victory over New Orleans Hornets featured a reliable supporting cast

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With the Staples Center crowd cheering during each swing of momentum as if it were an elimination game, Lakers forward Lamar Odom stepped onto center court.

He had just accepted the award as the NBA's sixth man of the year, but it's conceivable that the enthusiasm also represented a boost of support to a team that played Game 1 of its first-round playoffs match-up against New Orleans with the intensity of a regular-season game in mid-January. The scene provided a good illustration of Phil Jackson’s motivational tactic Wednesday during morning shootaround that the announcement of Odom's award a day before Game 2 served one specific purpose.

"The reason that they made sure Lamar had this award was this could be the last time he plays today in front of his whole team," Jackson said with a smile. "They want to make sure that award gets to them at the right time and to go out and prove them wrong."

Jackson was up to one of his usual Zen tricks, and the Lakers laughed at the tactic. But it provided the framework for how the Lakers wanted to change their play after a game featuring poor post play by Pau Gasol, Odom and Andrew Bynum, inconsistency in defending the pick and roll, a bench continuing its inconsistency and an overall effort that suggested the Lakers don't believe the playoffs have actually started.

The Lakers' 87-78 Game 2 victory over the New Orleans Hornets didn't exactly provide a turnaround from everything that had gone wrong in Game 1. Kobe Bryant, Gasol and Derek Fisher combined for 28 points with a seven-of-29 combined clip. The game also featured a third quarter in which both teams were scoreless for a 3:21 stretch. But there were plenty of areas that helped offset that, an encouraging sign for a team looking to take back control of the series.

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Steve Blake to play in Game 2 against New Orleans

Steve-blake_275 After two days of practice and finishing pre-game warmups, Steve Blake will return to the lineup in Game 2 of the Lakers-Hornets series after being sidelined for the past week because of chickenpox.

"I missed it," Blake said at his locker about his three-game absence after contracting the highly contagious disease that's mostly reserved for small children. "I just miss being outside. I couldn't wait to drive my car. To be out with all the guys and hang out with everybody is nothing better than that."

Blake still doesn't know the origin of getting the illness, saying he doesn't know anyone that has the chickenpox. But he says he felt relieved in recovering in only a week, considering adults often have more serious symptoms from chickenpox than do children, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.  Blake's activity was solely confined to resting, taking antibiotics and avoiding contact with people, a reason why he visited the doctor Monday morning to confirm he wasn't contagious before returning to practice.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said Blake is healthy enough to play his season average of 20 minutes per game, and Blake added his conditioning has improved since two days of practice.

Said Blake: "Hopefully by today, I won't fall on my face at all."

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers point guard Steve Blake practices free throws before Game 2 at Staples Center on Wednesday evening. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / US Presswire

Steve Blake handled plenty of frustration during weeklong absence from chickenpox

It took only a few sprints up and down to court to make Lakers guard Steve Blake quickly realize what remaining sidelined for the past week because of chickenpox did to his conditioning.

Still, it was good enough for the Lakers to expect he'll return to play Game 2 on Wednesday against the New Orleans Hornets after staying home the past week because of chickenpox,with Coach Phil Jackson saying, "He was right back on the level we want him to play." It also, of course, beats what Blake faced last week, making questions such as the following pretty insignificant: what he made of the Lakers'  109-100  loss  Sunday to New Orleans in Game 1 ("I'd rather not get into it"), how he can help the team limit Hornets guard Chris Paul ("It's not point guard defense; it's always been team defense") and how many minutes he can play ("That's up to Coach"). There were more pressing concerns, such as how Blake contracted a disease that mostly afflicts children.

 "I have no idea. It's not like I went up to someone and shook someone's hands and they had spots all over them," Blake said. "You just don't know how you get something like that."

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Lakers' Blake expected to play in Game 2

Photo: Lakers guard Steve Blake drives to the hoop as Atlanta Hawks' Marvin Williams, left, and Jamal Crawford, right, try to stop him during the fourth period at the Staples Center Feb. 22, 2011. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times Steve Blake practiced Monday and said he would play in Game 2 on Wednesday in the first-round playoff series against New Orleans.

The Lakers guard missed three games because of chickenpox. He can only help the effort to stop Chris Paul.

Paul torched the Lakers for 33 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds in Game 1, earning a piece of history with his performance.

It was only the fifth time that a player had that many points, assists and rebounds in the playoffs, and the first time it ever happened on the road. Oscar Robertson reached those levels twice, and Magic Johnson and Walt Frazier each did it once.

"We just have to be more attentive," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "Support. It's about helping our guards out."

The Lakers weren't fretting about Pau Gasol's on-court disappearance in Game 1. Gasol had eight points, made two of nine shots and took only six rebounds in almost 38 minutes.

"He's an All-Star player," Jackson said, quashing the concept of Gasol's struggling again in Game 2. "He's pretty good."

Neither Gasol nor Kobe Bryant spoke to reporters Monday.

-- Mike Bresnahan

Photo: Lakers guard Steve Blake drives to the hoop as Atlanta Hawks' Marvin Williams, left, and Jamal Crawford, right, try to stop him during the fourth period at the Staples Center Feb. 22, 2011. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Lakers health update: Andrew Bynum reports no pain, Matt Barnes and Ron Artest have knee injuries, Steve Blake will miss Game 1 of Lakers-Hornet series

Any Lakers health update usually involves center Andrew Bynum.

So here's the latest: Bynum participated in what he said was a full practice Friday, reported little pain from the bone bruise in his right knee and will suit up Sunday in Game 1 of the Lakers-Hornest first-round playoff series.

"It felt fine," said Bynum, who has frequently iced his knee. "It was all right. I'll be all right. It's nothing that's not normal at this point."

But not everything turned out according to plan. Bynum couldn't practice in five-on-five scrimmages like he had hoped because other teammates weren't available. Lakers guard Steve Blake won't play in Game 1 because of chicken pox, and Jackson hopes he can return for Game 2 on Wednesday but said he isn't certain. Jackson also said forwards Matt Barnes (sore right knee) and Ron Artest (hyperextended knee) sat out of Friday's practice and are listed as "probable" for Game 1 against New Orleans. Barnes has missed the last two games because of soreness in his surgically repaired right knee, although an MRI exam revealed no further damage. Jackson said Artest hyperxtended his knee in the Lakers' 116-108 overtime victory in their season finale Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings, but declined to say which knee was hurt.

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Breaking down the Lakers roster entering the playoffs

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Forward Ron Artest

When he wasn't celebrating the 2010 NBA championship, Artest spent plenty of time this off-season slimming down to 250 pounds and limiting his alcohol consumption in the hopes he could keep up with speedy players such as Kevin Durant. That effort has proven to be a mixed bag, but the way he defends the opposing team's best player will likely prove to be the X factor in a series.

It's crucial that Artest play the game the right way. When he doesn't have a superstar player to defend, Artest sometimes appears bored on team defense. When he is defending a top scorer, sometimes the matchup distracts him from basic duties, such as help defense. Then there's of course the offense, where running a fast break and any shot attempt immediately prompts Staples Center to let out a collective gasp.

But there have been spurts, particularly since the All-Star break where Artest has played the right way. Aside from his tenacious and aggressive defense, he's become a more reliable option offensively since the All-Star break with his points per game and shooting percentage eclipsing his season average. It all points to Artest becoming more aware and appearing more engaged. Strangely enough, Artest thrives more when he's not over-thinking what he has to do on the court. As everyone knows with Artest, he's a wild card and it'll be hard to gauge what he'll truly bring. There's no point in unraveling the enigma that is Ron Artest, but for better and/or worse, his playoff performances will surely be memorable.

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Lakers' injury list exacerbates concerns over play following 102-93 victory over San Antonio Spurs

60858930Folding his arms across his knees and burying his head down, Lakers center Andrew Bynum sat on the court.

He had just lost his balance while trying to track down San Antonio Spurs forward DeJuan Blair, a sequence that caused his left knee to slip underneath him. Bynum then grabbed his right knee, a discomforting visual for any Lakers fan, considering Bynum's well-documented injury history. But Bynum stood up and walked off the court as Lakers forward Pau Gasol patted him on the head. Soon enough, Bynum walked toward the locker room with trainer Gary Vitti following.

The Lakers' 102-93 victory Tuesday over the Spurs at Staples Center gives them a clearer look at the playoff picture, considering that L.A. can secure the No. 2 seed with a victory Wednesday at Sacramento and/or a Dallas Mavericks loss Wednesday against the New Orleans Hornets. But here's something that even has bigger implications: An unhealthy Bynum will severely dampen the Lakers' hopes to three-peat. Of course, the Lakers will have a better idea about the severity of Bynum's injury once he receives an MRI Wednesday, skipping the team's flight to Sacramento. But given Bynum's injury history, it's more realistic to expect a prolonged absence than a short one, even if he insists otherwise. 

"It's not really that bad," Bynum said while walking down a Staples Center hallway after the game. "It was painful right when it happened, but it's not that bad right now."

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