OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Steve Blake arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday afternoon, checked into a hotel and headed straight to Oracle Arena for the first time as a member of the home team.
The Golden State Warriors hope he can learn his way around the court just as quickly.
A night after the Warriors acquired Blake from the Los Angeles Lakers for reserve guards Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, the veteran point guard was eager to begin the next phase of his career. He wore No. 25 in Golden State’s 102-99 overtime win over the Houston Rockets and played right away.
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Blake shot 1 for 5 from the floor. He finished with three points, two rebounds and one assist in 19 minutes.
”Ideally, you’d want maybe a day of practice or something,” Blake said in the locker room before the game between introducing himself to his new teammates and Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob. ”But it’s still the game of basketball, something I’ve been doing my whole life. I look forward to getting out there with my new teammates.”
Blake entered the game to a standing ovation with 4:34 remaining in the first quarter. He made his first shot – pulling up for a 3-pointer – in the final seconds of the quarter.
Since learning he was traded about 90 minutes before the Lakers hosted Houston on Wednesday night, most of Blake’s focus had been figuring out plans for his family.
Blake’s basketball role will be an adjustment, too.
Blake, who is making $4 million in the final year of his contract, averaged 9.5 points and 7.6 assists while starting all 27 games he played for the injury-depleted Lakers this season. The Warriors are counting on the 33-year-old guard to improve a bench that has been searching for a solid ball-handler to spell starter Stephen Curry since Jarrett Jack left for Cleveland in free agency last summer.
The Warriors thought they did that when they got Jordan Crawford and Brooks from Boston in a three-team trade on Jan. 15. Golden State sent struggling backup Toney Douglas to Miami in that deal.
Crawford, who entered the game against Houston just before Blake as the two teamed together, has been mostly a scorer – albeit a productive one, at times – but is still learning how to be a better distributor and playmaker on a Warriors team that has plenty of shooters. Blake gives the Warriors a pure point guard whose favorite thing, by his own admission, is to create for his teammates.
”He’s a great guy and he’ll be great for our locker room and our team,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. ”He’s a big-time competitor. He’s a proven guy.”
Perhaps the best compliment came from Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who wrote on his Twitter page Thursday that he was ”not cool” with Blake’s departure. He also called Blake one of his closest teammates and a ”psycho competitor.”
”Kobe and I had a great friendship while I was there,” Blake said. ”One of the best teammates that I ever had, so I’m definitely going to miss him. I appreciate his support throughout the years. I can’t lie, though. I’m definitely going to miss him.”
Blake has played for six previous teams in his 11 seasons in the NBA after helping Maryland win the 2002 NCAA title. He’s been a starter and a reserve at his various stops, perhaps none more trying than his last, where he took over the primary ball-handling skills with Bryant and Steve Nash out with injuries most of the last two years.
Blake also missed 26 games with a right elbow injury this season.
”It’s been an interesting year, to say the least,” Blake said. ”We started out all right. Myself personally, I got hurt. Then as a team we had so many injuries and struggles there in L.A. But now to be on a winning team and have a chance to get in the playoffs and do something big is huge. I look forward to that challenge.”
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP