This is the sixth in a series grading the Lakers’ efforts on the 2012-13 season.
Player: Steve Blake, Lakers backup point guard
How he performed: Averaged 7.3 points on 42.2 percent shooting and 3.8 assists in 26.1 minutes through 45 regular-season games; averaged 14 points on 39.3 percent shooting and 2.5 assists in 37.5 minutes through two playoff games.
The Good: Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni gushed plenty of hyperbole in his introductory press conference. He envisioned how the Lakers would averaged 110-115 points per game (they averaged 102.2). D’Antoni believed he would have little problems incorporating a faster-paced offense to a veteran group (there were plenty). He set his sights on an NBA championships (the Lakers were swept in the first round).
But D’Antoni was hardly exaggerating when he said he long coveted Steve Blake, feeling his playmaking, feistiness and team-mindset proved the perfect fit in his system. Blake lived up to that billing in what became his most productive season in three years with the Lakers. In his previous two seasons under both Phil Jackson and Mike Brown, Blake admittedly played fairly tentative both out of respect to the team’s star studded lineup and because the offense hardly catered to his hope to create on his own. That wasn’t the case with D’Antoni, who always encouraged Blake to play with full aggression and take any shots that came to him.
Blake took that approach without compromising his team-first mentality, ability to mix it up on pick-and-rolls and post-entry passes and his feistiness on perimeter defense. The Lakers benefitted greatly from that approach, especially when they fell to numerous injuries. When Steve Nash missed the final eight games because of persisting soreness in his right hamstring, Blake averaged 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steals. During Kobe Bryant’s absence because of a season-ending torn left Achilles’ tendon, Blake closed out the final two regular season games and two playoff appearances averaging 18.8 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.5 steals.
“Toward the end of the year, I got to really show some of the other abilities I haven’t shown while I’ve been here,” Blake said in his exit interview. “There’s so much talent here and not a lot of shots to go around. With Kobe out and Nash being hurt, someone had to take those shots and be ready to step up.”
The Bad: There’s nothing Blake did significantly wrong this season, but serious injuries marred an otherwise productive year. Blake missed 37 games because of a lower abdominal strain that required surgery overlapping with a groin injury. Blake then missed the final two playoff games because of a strained right hamstring.
“As everybody knows, it was a tough year injury-wise, not only for myself but for the entire team,” Blake said after his exit interview. “Whenever we took a couple steps forward, there was an injury there to make us take steps back. But, I was pleased with the way I played throughout the year even though I was hurt.”
Grade: B+ To Blake’s credit, he didn’t allow his long-term absence to affect his comfort level and productivity once he returned to the court. But missing such a large chunk
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at email@example.com