With the departure of Jarrett Jack, the Warriors were in need of a backup point guard.
At the beginning of the season, the team had their own possible in-house replacement, Kent Bazemore. The team signed Toney Douglas in the off-season. They even went as far as to trade for Jordan Crawford in January to help solidify the position. The loss of Jack was still being felt and all potential backups had failed miserably.
They were desperate.
In comes Steve Blake, the 10-year veteran who has played for seven different teams during his time in the league. Blake changes teams faster than Rihanna changes men, and that worked in the Warriors favor. The Warriors acquired Blake for the aforementioned Bazemore — a fan favorite but a lost cause for the role he was being asked to play — and MarShon Brooks, a renowned chucker who isn’t even very good at that task.
The stage was set for the veteran: leaving the dark, desolate depths of Los Angeles to the upstart, playoff bound Warriors. Stephen Curry needed a sidekick of sorts, not only to give him rest while he sits but another ball handler to initiate the offense and allow the All-Star to play more off the ball.
Kyle Lowry, Andre Miller and Kirk Hinrich were other names being floated around before the trade deadline. Bob Myers played it relatively safe (and cheap) with Blake, who is an unrestricted free agent after this season and allows to the team to stay under the luxury tax. It was a smart basketball decision and better business decision.
For someone who Kobe Bryant called a “psycho competitor,” why haven’t we seen more of Blake? He’s averaged only 14 minutes in two games against the Clippers, with most being in the second half of an eventual 40-point blowout. Conversely, Jarrett Jack averaged 35.5 minutes in the playoffs last season.
Jack is the better scorer and liked to dominate the game — for better or worse — at times last season. Blake has never been that aggressive on the offensive end, but the minutes disparity is telling. Curry (and the Warriors) operate better when he handles the offense, but relieving him of on-ball duties was pivotal in the offensive scheme and would also giving Curry some much needed rest.
Mark Jackson has inserted his second-unit into games at a frustrating pace this season. He’s opted to insert the entire bench unit instead of opting to mix and match, forcing added pressure on the second-unit to score and defend at the level of their counterpart. This unit finished 24th in the NBA in scoring (28.2 PPG), 23rd in minutes (15.6 MPG) and last in shooting percentage (40.8%).
In his short time with the Warriors, Blake has proven to be a hesitant shooter, preferring to feed his teammates instead of forcing up shots on his own. This isn’t the problem. The trouble lies in what else Blake is doing on the floor and the role his coaches are putting him in. The Warriors need to assert themselves through smaller lineups, fewer turnovers and a faster pace. Why isn’t Blake getting more minutes alongside Curry?
Through two games, Blake has played more minutes with Jordan Crawford (17) than he has with Curry (7). In an attempt to free Curry and keep a hobbled Chris Paul chasing him in the halfcourt, Blake should be given the opportunity to run more with the starters. Jackson loves his scorers, and Blake is no Jarrett Jack in that regard, but he can run a balanced offensive attack well enough to warrant additional minutes.
The Clippers are the better team even if Andrew Bogut was healthy. Entering the series, the coaching staff needed to display a level of creativity and innovation to steal this series from their rivals. So far, it’s been more of the same: forcing post-ups, frequent isolations and limited ball movement. Something needs to change, and switching some rotations — specifically Blake into the point-guard role — should help in that regard.
The mass substitutions to begin and finish quarters isn’t working and frankly hasn’t worked the entire season. Doc Rivers is one of the best coaches in the league, and he’s more than happy to see a 4-reserve lineup in the game over blended rotations. Mark Jackson is proving to be the Avery Johnson to Don Nelson’s mad genius, coaching his team based off the opposition’s moves instead of forcing his own hand.
It’s now Jackson’s move to make, and on the heels of a 40-point shellacking in Los Angeles, the move to change the status quo is a necessary one.