Steve Blake Fits Perfectly Behind Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher on Lakers Bench

Steve Blake has been a champion at every level except one: the NBA.

The 30-year-old South Florida native was part of a dynastic Miami High School basketball team that won back-to-back state championships in the late 1990s.

He went from there to College Park, Md., where he helped lead the Terrapins of UMD to two Final Four appearances and a national championship in 2002.

He's since played seven seasons in the NBA, where to this day he remains ringless. Now he's got a chance to change that.

The journeyman Blake landed with the sixth team in his NBA career on July 8, when he signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the defending champion L.A. Lakers. After a nomadic first act to his career in the NBA, he now has a chance to find himself at home — and to find himself on top of the basketball world for real.

An NBA championship would be a fitting way for Blake to top it all off.

Blake's professional journey began in Washington, where he spent two years largely as a backup for Gilbert Arenas, and was rarely given a chance to shine. He made one playoff appearance, appearing briefly in the Wizards' second-round playoff exit at the hands of the Miami Heat, and was then on his way.

He went to Portland before landing in Milwaukee. Then he landed Denver, where he made another brief postseason cameo as the 2006-07 Nuggets were thumped in the West first round by San Antonio. By the time he returned to Portland at the start of the 2007-08 season, he was a regular starter in the NBA and ready to aspire to greater things.

It didn't quite work out for him. First the Blazers went 41-41, failing to make the playoffs; a year later, they won 54 games but were bounced by the Rockets in the first round. The Blazers cut ties with Blake at the trading deadline this year, swapping him to the Clippers for Marcus Camby as they geared up for the playoffs.

Blake shined during his brief time in Los Angeles, and it was in L.A. where he threw down his first career triple-double: 23 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in a 107-91 win over the Lakers in their season finale.

Maybe that night caught the eye of Mitch Kupchak, who enlisted Blake three months later to join the Clippers' cross-town foes. Blake has taken his talents across the hall to the other Staples Center locker room, and he's got a chance to be a part of something great in purple and gold.

You won't see any more triple-doubles from Blake now. He's likely to be coming off the bench, backing up the Lakers' long-standing backcourt duo of Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher. But Kobe is set to turn 32 this summer, and Fish will turn 36. Both men will need a reliable role player to come off the bench and fill in, keeping their legs fresh. Blake can be that guy.

Blake's not going to take over games. He's not a celebrity, he's not an All-Star, his only year in double-digits came in 2008-09, when he averaged 11.0 points a night for the Blazers. He's just a solid character guy and a role player who gets off on making his teammates better.

With the Lakers, he'll have some teammates that are pretty darn good already. It's up to Blake to get acclimated quickly as he has to learn Phil Jackson's system, the triangle, and the intricacies of the big men around him — Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom.

But that work just might pay off in the form of a championship. And that's something Blake's been striving for his whole career.

Yardbarker

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