Lakers guard Steve Blake will need to have consistency with his outside… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
This is the ninth post in a series focusing on five things each Lakers player must do to have a successful 2012-13 season.
1. Steve Blake needs to help decrease the minutes played by Steve Nash. Whether he does it by finding a consistent shot, connecting with teammates or just securing a lead, Blake has to play solidly enough to ensure the 38-year-old Nash isn't playing heavy minutes. Of course, Lakers Coach Mike Brown will determine this. Regardless of Blake's performance, the Lakers will feature their new prized point guard when games are close. But Blake has to take advantage in maintaining and widening leads. Such a variable could determine if Nash can keep his balky back healthy heading into the postseason.
2. Blake must be more selfish. That's the message Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Brown gave Blake in his exit interview. He was pretty honest in feeling fairly skeptical about that advice in both his exit interview and this offseason. Blake has a point, since playmaking and his team-first mind-set serve as two big strengths. Even if he improved in this department last season, Blake still hasn't consistently found a balance where it appears he's eager to run the show and become a scoring threat while also setting up teammates.
3. He needs to maintain a consistent outside shot. He had his moments last postseason where he hit key three-pointers in Games 1, 4 and 7 of the Lakers' first-round series against the Denver Nuggets. But Blake's missed game-winning three-point attempt in the Western Conference semifinals against Oklahoma City epitomized his overall inconsistency. Blake showed more assertiveness last season in taking open shots, but he still shot 37.7% for the regular season. He takes the right approach in working on his shot and showing up early for pregame warmups. But Blake has yet to meet the Lakers' expectations that he would serve as a John Paxson/Steve Kerr-type player.
4. Blake's chemistry with Antawn Jamison will be key. Even through Blake's inconsistency, teammates have universally said that they love his court vision. Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes and the Lakers front line have all lauded Blake's quick ability to see them open while slashing to the basket, cutting along the wing or establishing post position. Considering Jamison's strong scoring abilities, it will be critical that he and Blake establish instant chemistry. Blake's history suggests they will work well. But Blake's playmaking will be most effective if he doesn't pick up his dribble early or always look to pass.
5. He needs to play with no fear. Through his two years with the Lakers, Blake has remained a consummate professional. But plenty of things ride on Blake performing well. The Lakers have yet to use their amnesty provision, and could decide to use it on Blake, who will make $4 million next season. Should Chris Duhon become a sudden surprise, Blake's minutes could go down. It's possible he won't have as much of a role in this coming season's playoffs with Nash commanding most of the playing time.
Given Blake's personality, it's unlikely Blake would play overly selfish to protect himself in those areas. But he could appear to be afraid of making mistakes. Blake can't let any of that worry him.
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