Thunder fans want an out-of-bounds call against Lakers guard Steve Blake… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
As he sat at the podium, Coach Mike Brown's infectious smile and enthusiasm suddenly evaporated.
It had nothing to do with the Lakers' 2-0 deficit to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals. It had nothing to do with basketball. It had everything to do with fans issuing profantiy-laced death threats to the Twitter account of Lakers guard Steve Blake and his wife, Kristen, after he missed a potential game-winning three-pointer in the Lakers' 77-75 loss to the Thunder in Game 2 on Wednesday.
Since then, Blake's wife indicated on Twitter that she blocked more than 500 followers that issued various threats to the Blake family. Blake mentioned after Friday's shoot-around that he told team security officials about the threats as a precaution. And Brown, himself, appeared visibly upset over the personal attacks on his reserve guard.
"It makes me feel funny inside now," Brown said. "I understand the passion and love people have for this team. I respect that. I respect you guys saying what you want to say about me, Steve, and beating us up. That's your guys' job. You respect people saying that stuff. But golly, everybody has families. That's just, you don't want to touch that.
"That's the only thing that gets me emotional right now. I feel bad for his family. I feel bad for him. That shouldn't be a part of life to have somebody want to do stuff like that and attack your family. Fricken kids, man. That's, I don't like that. I feel bad for him. He handled it as best as he can. You guys wouldn't like that. No one would like that. You feel helpless out there. Of all these people, you don't know who did it and people know when you're leaving and we're in town, that's tough to deal with man."
Blake's wife has since tweeted appreciation for numerous followers sending support and outrage. "I am deeply grateful & humbled by the outpouring of love, support, & most of all prayers for our family in light of recent events-THANK YOU!" Kristen Blake tweeted. She also quoted a Bible verse when explaining why the threats have hardly affected her emotional state: "Everyone keeps asking if I'm ok-yes of course I am! ;) If God is for me -- whom than shall I fear?"
That's why Brown said he felt reluctant to say much to Blake about the messages. "Steve's a tough guy," Brown said. "I said a little bit but not really. You hate to say it and it's part of it. He just has to get himself ready for the game. I don't know. When I saw it, that's a shame. That's a doggone shame. If you want to say something about me or him, fine. But it's his wife and kids. ... Come on, man. Give me a break."
This episode doesn't just reflect the danger Twitter allows for fans of all backgrounds to interact with athletes and their close ones behind the shield of a user name. It doesn't just show that "there's a lot of hateful people out there," as Steve put it following Thursday's practice. It also shows the fickleness fans have toward Blake.
Though Blake shot only 35.9% this season from the field, he became a key role player on the Lakers' bench this postseason, making critical shots in three of the Lakers' four victories in their first-round series against Denver. Blake nailed three consecutive three-pointers in Game 1, iced the game with a three-pointer in Game 4 and scored a playoff career-high 19 points in Game 7. During that time, the Twitter account for Blake's wife received plenty of messages praising Steve's play.
Blake has averaged only 2.5 points on 16.7% shooting in 23 minutes through two games in the Lakers' series against the Thunder, sparking the fans' ire. But Brown, himself, hasn't changed his tune about wanting Blake to take open shots when he has them.
"If he's open, shoot it, I believe in him," Brown said. "I think all of our guys believe in him. He was wide open. He was an option. ... He was wide open and Metta made the right pass. I thought he had a great look at it. It just didn't go down. But if we're in that same position again and he's wide open, shoot it again Steve."
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