Sports Out West

Steve Blake’s departure is felt beyond the court

(Stephen Dunn / Getty Images / October 10, 2012

LOS ANGELES — Prior to Wednesday’s 134-108 loss to the Houston Rockets in Dwight Howard’s first game against his former team at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers traded point guard Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors.

It was a move that the Lakers made in part due to the team’s luxury tax situation that now at the current moment has been cut from $11.5 million to just over $ 7 million over the salary cap threshold.

Well it appears that the trade affects the Lakers not only on the floor, but also in the locker room.

“He was a joy to coach,” head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I think every coach should have an opportunity to coach somebody like that. He was one of the toughest guys that I’ve ever coached, and he’s good. Anywhere that wants to win, he’ll be a nice piece.

“Steve’s a good player, he’s going to a team where he’ll play a lot, and they’ll love him. It’s disappointing to everybody, but that’s the business of the game.”

Blake had spent the last three and a half seasons with the team after signing a four-year, $16 million contract in July 2010. He was a consistent player off the bench for Los Angeles as he helped the team reach the playoffs in the three years prior to this season.

Although the Lakers have struggled this season, Blake, when healthy, was a huge contributor averaging 9.5 points and career-highs in assists (7.6) and minutes (33.0).

The 33-year-old was not only seen as a great teammate but as mentor to younger players such as Kendall Marshall.

“Personally, it kind of was a letdown,” Marshall said. “Steve is a great teammate, but more importantly off the court he’s great guy. When I first got here he really helped me. The main thing you start to feel bad about his family, he has three kids here, but it’s a part of this business.”

For Jordan Farmar, who also like Marshall only became teammates with Blake this season, it was hard to see his teammate go, especially how it all went down.

“Absolutely,” Farmar said. “Everyone felt deflated. You don’t want to see anybody go and like that right before the game when he was getting ready with his pregame ritual and have to go home. It’s tough but it is what it is. “

“Basketball wise, he is somebody who competes and plays well,plays hard, plays smart and tries to make the right play. He was a tough guy,  it was good to have him out there who would guard somebody bigger, scrappy and fight for rebounds, play out of position and do whatever he ask to do.”

Blake’s absence also goes beyond the court for Farmar, as the 10-year veteran was the team’s players’ union representative.

“He was our representative for the (players’) union, so he is involved in the business of the game,” Farmar said. “He is the one that was relaying messages and keeping everyone involved. It was just great having him around… I (just) hope it’s a great situation for him. I hope he goes up there and plays well (as) he obviously gets to play in the playoffs.”

Ultimately Blake’s absence will be felt the most on the court as Marshall and Farmar will have to pick up the slack as far as running point guard duties, which is something that Marshall will prepare his body for the expected increase in playing time.

“Part of it you have to be professional and realize this is your job,” Marshall said. “You have to take care of your body and get rest.”

The 22-year-0ld has had to fill that void before when Blake missed nearly months of the season with a torn ulnar ligament in his right elbow. Marshall on Wednesday night played well as he scored 20 points and tallied 16 assists in 43 minutes played, which was his 12th point/assist double-double of the season.

In his 17 starts for the Lakers this season, he is averaging 12.5 points and 12.2 assists. His seven games of at least 14 assists ties him for the league lead in such contests with Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul.

As for Farmar, he will have to continue to progress along in his recovery from hamstring issues and play significant minutes in the meantime.  Although it is a lot to ask for a player returning from a nagging injury, that is the nature of the game and that is sometimes how the ball rolls.

Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images / October 10, 2012

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Bob Garcia IV

Bob Garcia is a sports journalist from Southern California. He was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.

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