Former Maryland point guard Steve Blake has now officially signed with the Los Angeles Lakers for a crisp $16 million over four years.
The initial assumption was that he'd be a backup, but with incumbent Derek Fisher in a contract dispute and set to turn 36, there's a report that Blake is in the catbird seat to start next season in La La Land.
Either way, everyone's a winner here.
It’s good for the Lakers because Blake will be a rock-solid backup, at a minimum, for Fisher, and will likely spell the end of significant playing time for reserve guards/skirt chasers Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic.
It's good for Blake because he joins an outfit with something of a reputation for being good at basketball.
Stamp on the Ron Artest Seal of Approval, and this becomes a can't-miss proposition.
This signing marks a turning point for the NBA careers of all the ex-Terps from the 2002 national championship team and, in my mind, officially coronates Blake as the most successful pro player from that roster.
Juan Dixon had his moments in the NBA, but currently is playing overseas—or at least he was until he tested positive for performance enhancers (he’s now awaiting an eligibility ruling).
Lonny Baxter played sparingly over four seasons and was out of the league by mid-decade—perhaps the biggest pro disappointment of the group.
Byron Mouton, Ryan Randle, Tahj Holden, and Drew Nicholas never broke in.
Chris Wilcox, who cut the most tantalizing NBA profile, just exercised a $3 million option to remain with the Detroit Pistons for another season. He's had a solid run, but his 4.5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 34 injury-plagued games last season didn’t exactly light up the phones in Joe Dumars’ office. Those numbers represent his lowest and second-lowest averages in those respective categories since his rookie campaign.
For comparison’s sake, here are the NBA stats of the four Terps who made the pros after the championship season:
Steve Blake: 499 games, 25.7 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.46 TOs
Chris Wilcox: 482 games, 21.1 mpg, 9 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.8 apg, 1.24 TOs
Juan Dixon: 436 games, 19.5 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.27 TOs
Lonny Baxter: 162 games, 11.6 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 0.2 apg, 0.67 TOs
Where Wilcox never quite converted his potential, Blake has developed his niche as a steady floor general who garners respect through good old-fashioned sweat and guts (an image underscored by his penchant for working out with UFC fighters).
He had a clean 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last year and hits 40 percent from three. He's a classic distributor that will learn to get Kobe, Pau, et al. the ball when and where they want it. He doesn't take a lot of shots but can score enough to provide a spark and keep defenders honest. His Achilles heel is defense, but that's not due to a lack of effort. If that’s not a championship-caliber backup point guard, then…well, whatever. He’s a championship-caliber backup point guard.
Here’s hoping he gets a ring in L.A. He’s earned it.
(This story, along with lots of other Terps news, is also posted at www.shell-games.com)