Recently signed point guard Steve Blake met the media today in El Segundo.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak joined him.
Blake’s opening remarks: “I want to say I’m extremely excited to be coming to the Lakers. As a player who has won championships at every level except the NBA, I think this is the best place to be. As a point guard, to play with the best player in the world in Kobe Bryant and other players like Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest … and to play for the best coach, Phil Jackson, so I’m extremely excited. There couldn’t be any better opportunity out there for me than to come here. I’m extremely happy Mitch wanted me here. I’m looking forward to playing my role to the best of my ability.”
Question: Do you see your role as a starter or playing major minutes as a backup?
Blake: “Not quite sure yet. I talked to Coach Jackson on the phone a little bit. We didn’t go into details about what my role will be. As we sit down and talk face-to-face I’m sure will go into depth about what that will be. I look forward to coming in here and starting or coming off the bench and being productive. I know it’s about winning here, and whatever it takes for me to help the team win, I’ll do that.”
Q: Whether it’s as a starter or a backup, what role do you think you can provide?
Blake: “I think I’ll just play my game. I’ve always been a guy who likes to set other people up first and get everyone involved and be a scrappy defender and knock down open shots, because we have a lot of guys on this team who get doubled. Just be an intelligent player out there on the court. I’ve tried to play that way my whole life and will continue to play that well.”
Q: You had a triple-double for the Clippers against the Lakers, did you think, “Hey, I’m going to be a free agent (maybe this will help)?”
Blake: “After the game was over, I was very happy I did that against the Lakers. I wasn’t thinking about it during the game. I was focused and trying help our team win.”
Q: Mitch, were you thinking about that?
Kupchak: “We’ve followed his career for years. We had made attempts in the past to acquire his services. It’s not like he had one good game and all of a sudden we decided to go after him. He’s been a pretty consistent performer over the years. We expect Derek (Fisher) would start. It’s the coach’s decision, but Derek will be 36, so we knew we needed a player in the backcourt to spell Derek and also going forward.”
Q: Steve, how did the free agent process start, did you contact the Lakers?
Blake: “It was a very short process. I agreed on the second day. My agent said a lot of teams called him right off the bat. The Lakers were one of the first teams, and so I was really excited about that when I heard that. I was happy it happened quick. I wanted to go to a team that could win and, like I said, there’s no better place for me to be. … When offers came in, obviously, the Lakers were on the top of my list because of their history and the future they have in front of them.”
Q: Did you watch the Lakers’ playoff run?
Blake: “Yeah, I didn’t get to see every game, but the games I did get to see I was wishing I was a part of it. Now that I am, I’m looking forward to winning some more.”
Q: Living in L.A. did you see what the Lakers mean to the community as opposed to the team you were playing for at the time (the Clippers)?
Blake: “Ummm, I’ll just say I enjoyed my experience with the Lakers a lot. They helped me get better as a player. I enjoyed the city. Ummm, so it was a good experience for me. I appreciated playing for them.”
Q: How do you feel about playing the triangle?
Blake: “I think I’m a pretty intelligent player. I haven’t played in the triangle system before, so I hope to figure it out very quickly and learn from players like Derek Fisher. I think I can pick it up really fast. You never know until you get into it, but I think I can be very successful at it. … I’m very comfortable (playing without the ball). I do like to have the ball and make plays, but at the same time giving the ball to someone who is a scorer who can go to work is a role I’m comfortable with.”
Q: Mitch, can you recall a specific time in the past you tried to get Steve?
Kupchak: “Well, he was a free agent three years ago. We had some dialog and over the years with the different teams, when you look a players who would fit into the system. We’ve been running our system almost 11 years now. We had the one year when we didn’t run the triangle (2004-05, when Phil Jackson was on sabbatical) and you look for players who fit. There are just X number of players who do, so Steve has been on a couple or three teams, I can’t recall exactly which team. But certain during free agency three years ago, we inquired.”
Q: Mitch, what do you look for in a point guard?
Kupchak: “We anticipate running the triangle again this year. Whether Phil returns or not, and it doesn’t sound like he will, we would contemplate continuing to run the triangle. If that’s the case, you want players who will prosper and run that kind of type, and not every player can. Some players do struggle. It’s not that most players can’t run the triangle. There are some players who need to have the ball all the time. Our offense is pretty free flowing and there’s a lot of movement, and the ball finds a player in a scoring position. Steve will learn quickly where to go to get shots. It does take time. Some players like to have the ball in their hands all the time and make every play. That’s not the way we play here offensively, so that’s a factor. Another thing I want to touch on, from a defensive point of view, what he brings defensively is just as important for us. We need a player who can defend and with the way the NBA is shaking up, it continues to be very competitive and one way to separate yourself from other teams is on the defensive end.”
Q: Mitch, you mentioned Steve could have a starter’s role at some point, how has Fisher reacted to that?
Kupchak: “It’s the coach’s decision, but we anticipate Derek coming back as the starter. Derek hasn’t missed too many games the last three years. In fact, I don’t think he’s missed any games. If he has to miss any games, I’m sure Steve will step up. Jordan Farmar is not going to return, so there are a lot of minutes there and, quite frankly, we have an aging backcourt. Kobe (Bryant), we hope to have him playing at peak efficiency for four more years, but he’s going to be 32. Derek is going to be 36. We need players who can play minutes.”
Q: Steve, will you spend any time this summer learning the triangle?
Blake: “Sure, I will. I’m sure they will send me whatever it is they need to help get me on the right track. I do need to be in Portland. We’re having another baby, so I need to be there for that. Hopefully, in mid-September I’ll start working with the assistant coaches as soon as possible.”
Q: When you watched the playoffs did you see yourself with the Lakers?
Blake: “I look back at it now that I’m a part of the Lakers, yeah. But watching it then, I kind of watched both teams to see how they play. But over the years, Derek Fisher has been so huge. A lot of places I’ve been they’ve been, like, ‘You’re not the best point guard in the league, you’re probably not going to be able to win a championship.’ But look at guys like Derek Fisher, who has won five championships. He’s a great player, but he’s not the best point guard in the NBA. So, I think it’s important to know it’s not about me doing everything, it’s not about the point guard doing everything.”
Q: So is he a role model from that standpoint?
Blake: “Absolutely, I’ve always looked up to him. He’s a winner. I’ve always respected winning.”