Lakers guard Steve Blake will be out for at least three weeks after stepping… ( Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Laker fans haven't just scratched their heads wondering if Steve Blake will ever become that consistent three-point shooter the Purple & Gold hoped he'd become.
Through two seasons with the Lakers, Blake has experienced several odd mishaps that left him sidelined. Blake sat out for a week, including the first game of the 2011 NBA playoffs, when he suddenly contracted chicken pox from an unknown source. Last season, Blake also missed 13 games because of a rib injury that worsened after making an awkward twist during a regular-season contest.
But Blake's latest injury, which the Lakers expect will sideline him for at least three weeks, seems the most bizarre. He stepped on a spike strip over the weekend at a beach parking lot and suffered a puncture wound in his left foot. More details will likely emerge on what exactly happened, but for now, it's safe to presume that Blake's absence could affect the Lakers in a number of ways.
1. Blake loses early chance to instantly build off his fairly promising playoff finish. His exit interview with Coach Mike Brown and General Manager Mitch Kupchak mostly focused on their desire for Blake to become more aggressive. Even if that's an ongoing process, the Lakers' assistant coaches liked how Blake showed signs this offseason of improving in that area.
Accounts suggest Blake improved his shooting stroke, didn't pick up his dribble as quickly and kept his conditioning sharp during the offseason. Of course, it's necessary to take offseason developments with a grain of salt until the games start. But Blake's relatively improved three-point shooting and aggressiveness in the 2012 postseason left the Lakers with some feeling that Blake could build off that.
2. The Lakers lose a dependable playmaker. Despite Blake's shooting inconsistencies, he always remained reliable in running the offense, keeping it organized and finding open teammates. That's the biggest reason why I've had a hunch Blake would have kept the backup point-guard spot.
That familiarity would do wonders in minimizing any transition period Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks experience in finding their shot. Blake's track record also would've made it more likely that Brown would put him in with the starters at times whenever Steve Nash needed a rest.
3. Nash might have to play more minutes. The Lakers will still have a dominant offense with Nash running the show, but Blake's absence could seriously dampen the team's hopes of minimizing the 38-year-old point guard's playing time. Of course, the Lakers have a star-studded lineup that could absorb Nash sitting out a bit. But they run the risk of undermining their offense without Nash organizing everything. Blake would've at least been able to hold things together on a short-term basis.
4. The Lakers' backup point-guard spot suddenly becomes open. The crux of the conversations I recently had with Chris Duhon and Darius Morris centered on the same things. Both of them want to be in the rotation. But both recognized the possibility that it might not happen. Well, now the opportunity is right in front of them and it'll be interesting to see if one emerges as the better alternative.
Duhon is an eight-year veteran with dependable defense and a promising stroke from three-point range (43% in 2011-12 with Orlando). But he admitted he lacked confidence in his shot last season, particularly on shots from 3 to 9 feet (23%) and 16 to 23 feet (38%). His high turnover rate (27.6%) also suggests he's struggling in organizing the offense. Even though Duhon said he's improved his conditioning, he's not equipped for driving to the rack.
Meanwhile, Morris has built a reputation as the ultimate gym rat, but it remains unclear how much he can help. The Lakers like his athleticism, speed and confidence, but the coaching staff called him "Showtime" last season for his tendency toward trying to do too much with his limited playing time.
Because of this dynamic, it's possible the Lakers will figure out this position based on who makes the fewest mistakes.
5. How will rehab affect Blake's game? Of course, Blake will try to work toward getting back into rhythm once he's fully healed. But it's possible Blake will feel tentative and uncomfortable with his shot whenever he returns. After he recovered from his rib injury last season, it took Blake four games to shoot at least 50% from the field. Even after that happened, Blake soon went on a six-game stretch where he made only three field goals. Because of the finicky nature of such painful injuries, it could take a few games before Blake feels fully comfortable.