For the first time since Hector was a pup (sorry, I couldn’t resist using a Chickism this close to the start of a new season), the Lakers won’t be worrying about production from the point guard position. That’s what signing Steve Nash will do. Even though Nash is much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, he is still one of the best point guards in the league. Last season in Phoenix, Nash was second in the league in assists per game and shot over 50 percent from the field.
The only point guard issue the coaching staff may have to worry about this season is who will serve as Nash’s backup. Last season, Steve Blake served as the team’s backup point guard. While it was certainly wasn’t a masterpiece, Blake had a much better second season with the Lakers than his lackluster 2010-11 campaign.
Blake saw improvements in his points per game, assists per game and overall field goal percentage. Blake also shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc during the post-season.
Another potential option the Lakers have to backup Nash is Chris Duhon. Duhon, along with reserve forward Earl Clark, joined Dwight Howard in making the move from Orlando to Los Angeles. At the moment, nothing much is expected from Duhon. The terms “throw-in” and “salary dump” are often linked with Duhon being included in the Dwight Howard trade.
But just because nothing is expected from Duhon next season doesn’t mean that can’t change in a heartbeat. In the middle of the 2008-09 season, the Lakers traded Vladimir Radmanovic, in an effort to rid themselves of Vlad’s hideous contract, to the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown.
The Lakers weren’t expecting much from Brown and Morrison when they joined the team. Brown ended up becoming an integral part of the team’s rotation, helping the team win back-to-back championships in ’09 and ’10. So it’s not completely crazy to think Duhon could potentially have a bigger impact than what’s currently expected.
Last season with the Magic, Duhon averaged a hair under four points and two assists in 19 minutes per game, in addition to shooting a career-high 42 percent from three-point range.
Wait, some of you may be asking, what about Darius Morris? Now that the Lakers aren’t a complete liability at the point guard position, and a much improved team overall, Morris probably had a better chance of earning minutes last season than he will in 2012-13. Unless there are tons of unforeseen injuries, Morris would have to leapfrog two players on the depth chart to earn serious minutes.
While Duhon could prove to be a surprise this season, it’s going to be hard for Blake to lose his job as backup point guard. For starters, it’s his job to lose. To this point, while he doesn’t necessarily have a stranglehold on it, he has earned the spot and is not battling for minutes like Duhon is.
Blake also played for new assistant coach Eddie Jordan in Washington. Jordan was added to the Lakers’ staff for his knowledge of the Princeton offense, which the Lakers will be running a variation of this season. Blake, having experience with Jordan’s offensive schemes, could not only see an improvement in his own production, but he could also help his fellow bench players with any speed bumps learning the new offense.
Another thing playing in Blake’s favor this season is he now has a quality, starting point guard playing in front of him, which means he likely won’t feel so much pressure to produce when he enters the game. Gone are the days of following the underwhelming acts of Derek Fisher and Ramon Sessions.
One instance we could see Duhon’s name called before Blake’s is for certain defensive assignments. I believe Duhon to be the better, more athletic defender. If Blake is having a hard time staying in front of his man, or if Mike Brown, being the defensive guru that he is, sees a particular matchup with Duhon’s “name written all over it,” the former Duke Blue Devil could receive way more playing time some nights than others.
Blake and Duhon now have the privilege of being teammates with Nash. Regardless of who gets the majority of the minutes backing him up, both will likely become better, smarter basketball players in the process.
In case you missed it – We caught up with Steve Blake to ask him about life with the Lakers.