As he moved around the perimeter of the court here at AT&T Center, Steve Blake conveyed everything with his body language regarding his most productive season in his three years with the Lakers. Blake constantly moved in rhythm. He looked determined and confident. And most important, the majority of Blake's shots went in the basket. Lakers center Dwight Howard then yelled out "Larry Bird" moments after telling reporters earlier that he normally calls him the "Blake Mamba." Blake's having that kind of year, averaging 7.3 points on 42.2 percent shooting from three-point range and 3.8 assists per game. While Steve Nash nursed a sore right hip and sore right hamstring through eight games in April, Blake started at point guard and averaged 12.6 points on 40.7 percent shooting with 8.3 assists. With the Lakers entering Game 2 of their first-round series tonight against the San Antonio Spurs, Blake could serve a critical role in stealing home-court advantage. "The load is not going to diminish for Blake," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He's playing really really well." Blake, who will start at shooting guard, may need to fill that role for various reasons. In Game 1, the Spurs persistently doubled-teamed Howard and Pau Gasol inside. Nash still admitted uncertainty whether he can play productively through his hamstring. And Kobe Bryant remains sidelined because of a season-ending torn left Achilles tendon. "I want to be a factor," Blake said. "I want to do the best I can defensively and offensively and make an impact." But he says none of that motivation stems from an uncertain offseason. The Lakers have four candidates they could waive using the amnesty provision, including Bryant ($30.5 million), Pau Gasol ($19.2 million), Metta World Peace ($7.7 million) and Blake ($4 million). "I work hard because it's always something I love to do," Blake said. "It's my job to be prepared and be ready to play." Blake's on-court body language during his post-practice routine Tuesday revealed how he's done that this season. Blake has appeared more comfortable under D'Antoni's offensive system than his first two seasons with the Lakers under Phil Jackson and Mike Brown. "He has given me a lot of freedom to play the way I've always played and not worry about shooting the ball whether I make it or miss it," Blake said of D'Antoni. "I can feel free to get into pick-and-rolls and play the way I know how to play."
Lakers reserve guard Blake has stepped up in absence of Bryant, Nash
L.A. Daily News | Apr 24