Saturday, October 23, 2010
LIVELY BLAKE, part 1, the early years
The preseason (or waste of time as PJ calls it) having now expired, it becomes incumbent on me to issue certain edicts and importantisms. Watching this particular organization in exhibition play is probably less informative than being a fly on the wall at practice but it does give some level of context, regardless. Phil Jackson’s way isn’t about getting preseason wins (although contrary to some popular belief they aren’t frowned upon) but looking to integrate new players into a complex system, examining patterns of effort and conditioning and tweaking those that fall short in some way, through media interviews and access.
Steve Blake was one who didn’t seem to come under the critique gun all that much but regardless, was fairly self-critical after some recent uneven execution (the effort has always been there). Praise was lavished early and often by both staff and teammates for catching onto the system in short order. The games proved somewhat more challenging however, as is to be expected in real time. And, a couple games back, Blake seemed especially out of sorts, victim of a respiratory infection, shots that refused to fall and various timing mistakes. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, there’s the old adage of not learning if not falling.
I’ve been a Blake fan for a while, had hopes he’d sign with the Lakers a couple years back but he wound up in Portland instead. Mitch kept him on the radar though and pulled the trigger quickly when free agency opened this summer. I’m looking forward to actual season play and while not concerned in the least about his recent rough patch, was happy to see him shoot 8 for 10 along with 7 dimes Thursday night against the Warriors. Last night he regressed again with 0-5 shooting but showed good court awareness in 25 minutes of burn against the same GS team - said game won in the closing moments of OT by the Lakers. Sidebar: I just noticed that Medina for the LAT blog did a post on Steve Blake yesterday. So unfair. I thought I would have clear sailing. Just for that, no links to the Times in this piece.
All that said, this seems like as good a time as any to explore Blake’s back story a bit. Not exactly Zen I know, Phil would rather view a player through the lens of the present moment but I personally tend to be an advocate of pointless over-thinking.
Our buzz cropped boy was born February 26, 1980 in Hollywood, Florida, to parental units Richard and Cindy. The youngest of 4, Steve had three older sisters and a typical childhood. He was actually quite small and underweight up until his teen years and had designs on becoming a jockey. Blake attacked this with his usual enthusiasm and dedication, hanging out at the Gulfstream Park backstretch, mucking stalls and picking up morning rides until a sudden growth spurt curtailed his equestrine dream. Haha, just wanted to see if readers were paying attention. Speaking of readers, there’s been a total of three bloggers who’ve graced the SfS comments. What’s the deal, does it take that much effort or are you all just chicken?
So. Blake was a baller from early on, the usual camps and middle school programs. He was the starting point at Miami Killian High for his frosh and soph years and led the team to the state semis with all sorts of crazy assists before transferring to Miami Senior where he led the team to the state championship. Investigative reporting by the Miami New Times however, exposed recruiting violations as well as falsified residency records for a number of players including Udonis Haslem and Blake. The FHSAA eventually stripped the team of its title. Blake, whose parents had recently split, moved on to the legendary Oak Hill Academy in Virginia and led their Warriors to a perfect 31-0 championship season. Amazingly, Blake, who was the starting point guard for every highschool squad he was on, compiled a four-year record of 100-4.
International side-note imbedded in sparse and uncluttered paragraph designed to give reader a brief but refreshing pause: Blake helped lead the U.S. to a silver medal in the 2000 World Championships and a gold medal in the 1998 Junior Worlds.
Heavily recruited by various institutes of higher learning, Blake went on to four years at the University of Maryland, taking off just a few months to film the lead role in 8 Mile. He met the future Mrs. Kristen Blake while in school and was the starting point guard for the Terps from day one, leading the team to the final four in 2001 and nabbing the NCAA championship the following year. He garnered all manner of awards along the way and finished college as the first NCAA player to compile 1,000 points, 800 assists, 400 rebounds and 200 steals.
I remember Blake’s play with Maryland, the dude was always an impressive facilitator but it’s one thing to star in highschool and college and another thing to make it to the show - especially if you’re not particularly big or freakishly athletic. Blake was armed however, with a hot blonde girlfriend, a degree in criminology and an uncanny resemblance to Eminem which galvanized edgy owner Abe Pollins (rest his soul) into using his 38th pick on the kid in 2002. And that seems as good a place as any my friends, to end this debacle. Part 2 will follow someday.