Steve Blake tweaking his shot before next season

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Steve Blake never seemed comfortable in the Lakers triangle offense last season.

Coming from more traditional point guard systems, he never seemed to be able to find his spaces in the offense. He saw his assist rate fall way off career averages (the point guard is more a catch-and-shoot guy in Phil Jackson’s triangle) while his turnover percentage went up from those career numbers.

It also showed on his three point shooting — he shot 37.8 percent, which is not bad but well below the 39.5 percent he hit two seasons ago. The two seasons before that he knocked down better than 40 percent of his threes. It wasn’t just there, on long twos (more than 16 feet out) he shot 35 percent last season, down from 46 percent with the Clippers the season before.

This summer Blake is reworked his shot a little, he told the Los Angeles Times.

“I’m trying to get more arch on my shot,” Blake said Thursday in a phone interview. “That’s what I’ve been working on this summer. I’m trying to shoot the ball a little higher and see if that will improve my jump shot. I didn’t shoot the ball horribly this year, but I didn’t shoot it as well as I wanted to.”

With Mike Brown, the Lakers point guard will play a more traditional role. That suits Blake in the half court where he has had success in that role before, although when asked to push the tempo with the Clippers a couple seasons ago — something the PG will be asked to do more with the Lakers next season — he was a turnover machine.

Blake is optimistic about the change.

“This year it’ll be a more traditional point guard role,” Blake said. “This past year, we had a two-guard front where a lot of times I wouldn’t even bring the ball up. Now it’s more of a typical point guard role I’ll probably be able to excel in more. I’ll be more comfortable in being able to just react and not have to think as much. You’re always thinking. But the triangle is different. You have to learn it a lot more. This will be easier for me to acclimate to this new offense. I think I’ll be more successful that way.”

Blake is going to get his chance, but the Lakers need to bring in someone younger and better suited to the position at both ends of the floor if they are to remain title contenders. Right now Derek Fisher and Blake are the PGs on the roster, and that will mean trouble for the Lakers (especially on defense). But Blake will get a chance to prove he’s better than he looked last year.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.