Lakers guard Steve Blake had some big shooting games, but they often came… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
This is the eighth in a series of posts grading the Lakers on the 2011-12 season.
Player: Steve Blake
How he performed: 5.2 points on 37.7% shooting in regular season; 6.3 points on 41.9% shooting in the playoffs.
The good: At least for one round of the playoffs, Blake provided everything the Lakers always wanted from him. He nailed critical three-pointers at opportune moments. Blake sank three consecutive threes to open Game 1 against Denver. He followed up with a dagger three-pointer to clinch the Lakers' Game 4 win. Blake played out of his mind in Game 7, in which he posted a playoff career-high 19 points on seven-for-11 shooting. And at least for one game in the second round, Blake carried that through with a 12-point effort on a four-of-five shooting clip.
Relatively speaking, Blake looked more comfortable and effective this season than last in running the offense and looking for his shot. Before suffering a fracture in his rib area, Blake opened the first 12 games averaging 7.3 points on 40.2% shooting. He also had a few signature moments in the regular season, in which he posted double digits in nine different games.
Most important, Blake remains a consummate professional, and he consistently works after practice and before games on his shooting, ball handling and playmaking. He's measured, as every other player, on the bottom-line results. But Blake is genuinely taking the right approach in striving for improvement.
The bad: For the second consecutive season, he has fallen woefully short of the Lakers' expectations. They envisioned him as a John Paxson/Steve Kerry-type role player who can hit big shots off double teams. He too often failed to do that despite being given the green light to shoot and fielding many open shots because of persisting double teams on the Lakers' Big Three.
Part of the drop-off in play is circumstantial. It took him six games after returning from his injury before getting into any rhythm. But much can be blamed on his passivity. It affected how efficiently he ran pick-and-rolls and found open teammates. It prompted defenses not to take his driving abilities seriously. And it prevented Blake from providing any inconsistent shooting presence.
Blake's miss of the potential game-winning shot in Game 2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder provoked a thoroughly unacceptable reaction from some on Twitter who made death threats against him and his family. He does have to hit such shots, though, and for the most part, he failed to live up to his billing.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak suggested he won't exercise the amnesty provision for Blake, which should serve as a sort of relief for Blake considering his two-year, $8-million contract. But Blake still has plenty to worry about regarding next season. He could start should Ramon Sessions opt out of his player option and pursue a long-term deal elsewhere. Or he could see a diminished role should the Lakers upgrade at point guard. Or Blake could be part of a trade. Regardless, Blake needs to continue to sharpen his aggressiveness and improve his shooting stroke.
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