Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said he'd always wanted to coach… (Ronald Martinez / Getty…)
Veteran guard Steve Blake had his best year with the Lakers, when he was healthy.
After two difficult seasons with the team, Blake shot 42.2% from the field and 42.1% from three-point range -- a big leap from last year's 37.7% and 33.5%, respectively.
Early in the season, an abdominal strain sidelined him for more than two months. A hamstring injury shut him down halfway through the Lakers' first-round sweep by the San Antonio Spurs.
Blake missed 37 regular-season games, averaging 7.3 points and 3.8 assists. When Steve Nash sat out in April, Blake stepped into the starting lineup to help the team finish the season with a 7-1 record.
In that stretch, Blake averaged 12.6 points a game. With Kobe Bryant out with an Achilles' tear, Blake helped carry the offense for the team's two final, must-win games (scoring 23 points against the Spurs and 24 against the Houston Rockets).
Defensively, Blake was an asset, playing with a necessary feistiness. At 6-foot-3, he gave Coach Mike D'Antoni flexibility to go small when needed -- Blake sliding over to shooting guard to play alongside Nash.
In D'Antoni's introductory press conference, he noted he had wanted to coach Blake for many years. Once Blake got over his initial injury, he became a valuable role player for the Lakers.
Now going into the final year of his deal at $4 million, Blake seems likely to be back with the team next season.
Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace and Blake are the only Lakers eligible to be waived via the team's one-time amnesty. Given how productive he was when healthy, Blake appears to be safe from amnesty (although nothing is ever certain until the deadline passes in mid-July).
If Nash and Blake can stay healthy next season, the Lakers have two veteran shooters at the point who play well together.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.