Steve Blake sheds light on adjusted role, post game demeanor

Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake (5) recovers the loose ball and looks to pass around Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe (10) and guard Brandon Jennings (7) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., Friday, Nov. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake (5) recovers the loose ball and looks to pass around Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe (10) and guard Brandon Jennings (7) during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., Friday, Nov. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Through four seasons with the Lakers, Steve Blake has never publicly uttered any criticism about a teammate, coach or his role.

Yet, with a visibly upset Blake providing clipped answers to reasonable questions in a post-game interview aired on Time Warner Cable SportsNet following the Lakers’ 106-94 loss Sunday to the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center, sports talk radio hosts and Laker fans alike speculated both on Twitter and on the airwaves that it served as a cryptic message.

The most thrown around theory involved Blake being upset that Kobe Bryant’s return to the lineup after staying sidelined for the past eight months reduced his role as a playmaker. But Blake said his demeanor had nothing to do with Bryant’s presence. Instead, Blake said it had everything to do with both the loss and his play where he posted three points on one of six shooting and four turnovers.

“If you saw the game, I played like crap and we lost the game,” Blake said. “Would you expect me to be happy? That’s all it was. I was mad. I didn’t play well. We lost the game after we had been playing so well. For us to take a step back like that, it was unacceptable for me and us as a team.”

Blake also downplayed Bryant’s role in the loss despite posting only nine points on 2 of 9 shooting and committing eight turnovers.

“I don’t think it was Kobe,” Blake said. “It was us. As a team, we didn’t have the effort we should have. For me, personally I didn’t have the performance I should’ve had. It’s a combination of all of that.”

Nonetheless, Blake conceded the adjustments he may encounter as the Lakers try to incorporate Bryant into the lineup. To account for Bryant’s diminished athleticism and the absences to Steve Nash (back) and Jordan Farmar (strained left hamstring), Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has made Bryant a de facto point guard in hopes his facilitating will ensure  team balance.

“You kind of defer a little bit more,” Blake said. “He’s a guy who can bring it up the floor and run pick-and-rolls and create for people. I won’t be getting every outlet pass as I was and dictate the offense right now. I’ll get back to running into the corners a little bit more and getting used to that part of the process.”

Blake has averaged a steady 9.8 points and 7.6 assists this season partly because D’Antoni’s quicker-paced offense taps into his playmaking instincts. Blake didn’t have that freedom in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense in the 2010-11 season because the system doesn’t feature point guards with a traditional role. Mike Brown’s offense in the 2011-12 season featured a heavy playbook.

How can Blake still remain the same effective playmaker if Bryant’s presence takes away some of that freedom?

“It’s going to be a little bit of a challenge,” Blake said. “But I was doing that a little bit earlier in the year when Nash was playing. So I’m going to have to get comfortable with that situation again hopefully sooner than later. It’s what you have to do as a player. You have to adjust to your teammates and what’s going on.”

It sounds as if D’Antoni’s receptive to adjustments too.

D’Antoni suggested he’d like a better balance between Bryant and Blake handling the point guard duties.

“I don’t want to lose Steve because I think he should,” D’Antoni said. “They’ll split. But like anything else,when you have the ball, you’re the playmaker. Whether it’s Shawne Williams at the 4 or Pau at the 4, you have to make a play. You know Kobe is going to have the ball a lot. He’s going to make a lot of plays. People get his share. We don’t want to diminish that.”

So how should that dynamic play out?

“Steve will bring it up. He’s the point guard. But if Kobe rebounds, he’ll push it,” D’Antoni said. “If the ball is swung around, it’ll be in Kobe’s hands and he’ll be making a play. They just have to play off each other. You can’t designate, ‘This time you make a play’ and ‘that time you make a play.’ They all make it. Kobe, by being so talented and so good, will make most of the plays. That’s just the way life is.”

But that doesn’t mean Blake will complain about it. Instead he’ll focus on the Lakers’ on-court adjustments.

“We have to make better decisions,” Blake said of himself and Bryant. “For me, I just made some bone head plays I didn’t need to make. For him, I think it’s his first game back in so long. I don’t think he’ll be making plays like that.”

RELATED:

Lakers shuffle starting lineup tonight against Phoenix

Nike launches nine-week campaign showcasing Kobe Bryant portraits

Kobe Bryant grades himself an F on his return

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
  • Dragon7s

    It’s a shame that you don’t get more comments on your blog so allow me to contribute….

    Great article on Blake and exactly what you’d expect to hear from a team leader.
    Let’s hope he assumes more of the PG-duties tonight and gets back in the groove as to running the offense.

    With the line-up changes for tonight, it looks like the opportunity to pad his stat line with assists is a real possibility.

    I look for a shootout tonight between these two teams.

    Go Lakers!

    • Mark Medina

      Dragon7S – Thanks for your interest. It’s an interesting dynamic because Kobe can’t be the dominant scorer he once was, but Steve was so effective as a playmaker. There definitely needs to be a balance with tapping into both skillsets.

  • dur

    D’Antoni is just such a lousy coach.

    • hookedonnews

      D’Antoni has done a great job of coaching this season. Most people didn’t expect this team to win one game without Kobe. Stop blaming everything on the coach and take a look at the players on the court. D’Antoni’s not the one turning the ball over,,missing shots, and failing to play team defense. .

  • cr_chris

    Why not keep the system running the same and only use Kobe as a PG when necessary? It seems like having him walk the ball up the floor is taking away what they’ve been good at – getting the ball up the floor quickly and scoring early. Play slower half court basketball only when you have to. I don’t understand why you take the ball out of Blake’s hands with the way he’s been playing and make him less effective. Let Kobe find ways to work his way into the offense – don’t put him in charge of running everything right out of the gate.

  • ronocca

    Even though they lost to the Suns I think having Kobe at 3 works. It gives them a better starting five while maintaining a great second unit. The second unit just didn’t show up and it wasn’t because of the presence of Kobe on the floor. They just didn’t play the kind of defense needed to go with their offense.

  • Shane Michael

    Kobe had 8 turnovers genius…not 9. Yikes, where do they find these bottom feeding writers?