All the tea leaves suggest Lakers guard Steve Blake will continue in his usual role as the team’s backup point guard.
Lakers Coach Mike Brown conceded Blake has an edge because he’s played with the Lakers the past two seasons, while Chris Duhon just arrived from Orlando this off-season as part of the Dwight Howard trade. Brown applauded Blake’s toughness for sitting out only 10 days and missing a mere three days of training camp after the team expected him to be sidelined for three weeks because of a puncture wound in his left foot.
Though Brown claimed he was unaware of it, the whiteboard propped outside the team’s training room showed that Blake made 22 consecutive three-pointers at some point this off-season.
Nonetheless, Brown said that what Blake and Duhon show in training camp, including eight preseason games, will help determine how many minutes they play when the regular season arrives.
Said Brown: “We’ve just got to make sure we handle the process right.”
For Blake and Duhon, they’re handling it by remaining professional.
“Same approach as always,” Blake said. “Play hard, compete hard. Do everything I can for the team. That’s it. Everything else is left up to Coach. I’ll play my best and play my hardest and leave it up to him.”
“Just play my game,” Duhon said. “I can’t go out and there and try to be somebody I’m not. I have to go out and do the things that I do well and do it at a high level and give the best effort as much as possible.”
Their answers may sound the same, but their games are drastically different.
Blake helped his reputation as a clutch shooter by hitting critical three-pointers in the first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets. Brown was gratified that Blake played more aggressively this off-season. Even though Blake’s averaged only 4.6 points on 36.7% shooting in two seasons with the Lakers, they’ve liked how he’s kept the offense organized.
Duhon averaged 3.8 points and 2.4 assists in 19.5 minutes a game in his ninth year last season with the Magic. Even though Duhon shot 42% last season from three-point range, he was less effective from 3 to 9 feet (23%) and 16 to 23 feet (38%). With a high turnover rate (27.6%) and low assist ratio (19%), Duhon also struggled last season in running the Magic offense. Still, Duhon has proven a superior defender than both Blake and Nash.
“Learning the new offense, it takes a lot of repetition,” Duhon said. “It’s competitive. Everyone has been going hard. The practices have been tough. But it’s going to make us better.”
The same idea applies to the Lakers having an open competition for the backup point guard spot. But it’s hardly contentious. Nash, Blake and Duhon worked out together in Phoenix with Lakers development coach Phil Handy.
“We were trying to get a head start on some of the concepts,” Nash said. “It’s good to spend time together.”
For Blake, that happened earlier than expected. Blake credited the training staff for treatment and his wife, Kristen, for giving him “an opportunity to lay around and get off my foot.” Brown credited Blake’s quick return reflects his tenaciousness.
“Stuff that we’re doing is not easy to pick up on, but when he’s out there you can’t even tell he missed a day,” Brown said. “It messes me up every once in a while. You can’t tell with his quote-unquote conditioning because it always stays the same. His body always looks the same. He has to be an extremely intelligent guy because he hasn’t missed a beat, offensively.”
Yet, that’s not enough for Brown to declare Blake the primary backup point guard. Blake says he wouldn’t leave any stone unturned anyway.
“When you’re on the court, you may as well go all out,” Blake said. “There’s no holding back. Every time I’m out there I just compete hard.”