PHOENIX — For the time being, Steve Blake remains left-handed. But it sure appears he has stayed right-minded.
As he’s worn a brace to support his hyperextended right elbow for the past two weeks, Blake’s on-court activity has involved every basketball drill imaginable with only his left hand. This isn’t a new revelation, and was noted here three days ago. But it was a sight to see first-hand catching Blake practice with only his left-hand during pre-game warmups.
It was certainly much prettier to watch than the Lakers’ 117-90 loss Monday to the Phoenix Suns at U.S. Airways Center. Blake dribbled with his left hand before driving in for left-handed layups and floaters. He worked with pick-and-roll sets with Lakers player development coaches Mark Madsen and Larry Lewis. Blake even shot a few free throws left-handed.
All the while, Blake’s brace kept his right arm locked in a stationary position.
“At the end of the day, if I’m better with my left now after this, it’s a blessing,” Blake said. “It can only help.”
So much that Blake reported that he had his free throw percentage shooting with only his left hand improved from making two of five shots toward making anywhere between five to 10 consecutive baskets.
How was his left hand beforehand?
“It sucked,” Blake said, laughing. “I’m a point guard. I have to be able to use my left hand. It wasn’t my first thought to use my left. I pass good with my left and dribble pretty good with my left. But becoming more comfortable always helps.”
Blake had every right to feel discouraged with his injury.
He had averaged a steady 9.8 points and 7.7 assists in 31.9 minutes through 21 games, showing the right mix of aggressiveness, dependable shooting and passing under Mike D’Antoni’s system. Blake had suffered another freak setback last season where overlapping groin and abdominal injuries sidelined him for 37 games, while a strained right hamstring kept him out for the Lakers’ final two playoff games. Blake also estimated he’ll have to wear the brace for another four weeks.
The Lakers (13-15) also have a severely depleted backcourt, including injuries to Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee), Steve Nash (nerve issues in back) and Jordan Farmar (strained left hamstring). Farmar could return when the Lakers host the Miami Heat Christmas Day at Staples Center. But the Lakers expect Bryant out for six more weeks, while Nash won’t return for at least another month.
“There’s stretches where they look really good,” Blake said. “Then there’s times a point guard with experience would be helpful to get into an offense or a play that understands the flow of the game. I wish I could be out there helping in some way.”
But Blake said he’s still remained in high spirits.
“I try not to pity myself,” Blake said. “I’m disappointed of course. But there’s a lot of season left. I’ll have come back to get into it again. There’s no time for pity parties.”
Instead, Blake remains concentrated on trying to mitigate any fatigue concerns without playing on the court.
“I’m able to keep my conditioning up, not to an extreme level. But it shouldn’t take me too long to get back into it,” Blake said. “It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes my arm to get back to where it should be.”
Blake’s track record last season showed he’ll be fine, presuming he can stay healthy.
Though his injury extended over two months, Blake wasted no time tapping into his playmaking and creative instincts that has flourished under D’Antoni’s system.
“With the way my game is, I like to pass a lot. That’s not too hard to get back into it,” Blake said. “It’s not like I’m trying to come back in there and be a dominant scorer or anything like that. As long as my legs are under me and I can see the game slow down. The first game was a little fast. But sometimes you can pick it up really quickly. The only concern I have is getting my shot back and how my arms are going to feel with that motion again.”
But as he demonstrated in pre-game drills, Blake appeared just fine even it required him temporarily to become a southpaw.
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