Steve Blake trys to carve out role as more than just veteran bench presence in Detroit

4 Comments

In Detroit, newly minted max player Reggie Jackson is going to be the starting point guard for Stan Van Gundy. Behind him there is Brandon Jennings, who is coming off a torn Achilles. Jennings may be ready to go when the season tips off, but even if he is Van Gundy may want to go easy on his minutes.

Then there’s veteran Steve Blake.

Van Gundy wanted insurance in case Jennings wasn’t ready to go when the season tips off, plus Van Gundy likes shooters and Blake is a career 38.5 percent from three (35.2 percent last season). So the Pistons traded Quincy Miller for Blake (the trade was with the Nets, who had gotten Blake in a draft night deal with Portland).

Van Gundy was looking for a veteran presence on the bench, but he’s got a suspicion Blake will find his way onto the court, he told the official Pistons’ website.

“That’s one of the things my brother (Jeff) said when we talked about the trade,” Van Gundy grinned. “He said, ‘If I had to bet, I’d say he finds a way to get on the floor no matter what.’ That’s sort of what he’s always done. He’s found a way to play.”

If Blake is playing a lot at age 35 it’s not ideal, it means Jennings isn’t right. Blake game has started to slip in recent years, but he can be solid. What Van Gundy saw in Blake was a professional, a guy who puts in the work, a smart veteran player —the kind needed in the locker room of a young team. He and Joel Anthony are the veteran voices.

“The last two people we (signed) were Joel and Steve. It’s a young team,” Van Gundy said. “We really didn’t get any older. Our starting lineup will average under 25 years old. I’m not sure having all young guys is the best way to develop all those guys. I think we saw the benefits of Caron (Butler) and Joel and Anthony Tolliver last year. Besides what Steve can do on the floor, I think Steve, Joel and Anthony as our only guys over 30 give us veteran guys who are really, really solid pros and good people for those guys to watch and grow up around.”

There certainly are real questions about them, but I’m higher on Detroit next season than a lot of people. Jackson and Andre Drummond showed some chemistry last season. Ersan Ilyasova is a better fit stylistically at the four in Van Gundy’s system than Greg Monroe. I think players like Marcus Morris and rookie Stanley Johnson can make an impact. They need shooters (expect Jodi Meeks’ role to grow) but there is some potential here.

I think this is a playoff team in the East. So long as Blake can be that veteran voice that helps keep the young players on the right path.