Steve Blake brings the ball up the floor during the Lakers' 108-94… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Strange question about Steve Blake — what exactly is he?
Point guard or shooting guard?
He has been the point man since picking up a basketball in his Florida high school days, but he keeps popping up in the Lakers' starting lineup as a shooter next to Steve Nash.
"I'm a utility guy. Put me at center. Why not?" Blake said.
That won't happen for the 6-foot-3 rail-thin bundle of Blake.
But Coach Mike D'Antoni continues to give him more freedom, a long leash born last season when Blake averaged 11.6 points and 3.9 points over the last five weeks, easily his best stretch with the Lakers in three mostly nondescript seasons.
He has one year left on his contract, like pretty much all the Lakers, and he's happy wherever the backcourt shuffle takes him despite his self-described experience at his new position amounting to "not a ton."
"I think it would be fun to play some shooting guard with [Nash]," Blake said. "We can both handle the ball and create shots for each other at times. I don't mind playing off the ball at all."
Little secret: Blake played off the ball sometimes in Portland alongside Brandon Roy. He was also a shooting guard occasionally when paired with Kobe Bryant last season.
Through seven exhibition games, Blake leads the Lakers in minutes (25.1 a game) and is tied in assists (4.7). His scoring average (5.6) doesn't exactly signal the rebirth of a 33-year-
old, but he's definitely more comfortable in this system after also playing under
Phil Jackson and Mike Brown.
"The triangle and the Princeton doesn't feature the point guard to be creating shots for other players. The system itself creates shots for players," Blake said. "In [D'Antoni's] system, the point guard has the ball in his hands more, you run a lot more pick-and-rolls, a little bit more freedom to either score or create for people.
"In the triangle, you head to the side, then you cut to the corner and you just read different cuts off of that."
It took Blake a while to adjust to D'Antoni's offense mainly because he wasn't healthy last season. He missed 37 games because of abdominal surgery and saw his season cut short in the playoffs because of a strained hamstring.
He says he's "healed up from all the issues," an important consideration when starting a contract year. It's pretty obvious where he wants to end up when free agency begins next July.
"I love it here. The organization's been great. Everyone knows it's one of the best franchises in the world," Blake said. "My wife and I really enjoy living in the South Bay area. It would be nice to stick here for a long time. It's hard to come by in the NBA now, but if I had the opportunity I'd absolutely come back."