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Golden as Nugget
by Sam Amico / March 26, 2007

Steve Blake appeared to be one of those guys who would always be a “throw-in,” a good player who would spend his entire career as trade bait. But the fourth-year point guard may have found basketball stability in Denver.

Blake was traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Nuggets in January. He spent his first two NBA seasons in Washington and last year in Portland.

If you’re looking for a point guard who can put up big numbers, Blake probably is not your guy. He averages 6.3 points and 3.5 assists, and while a solid defender, he compiles less than one steal per game.

But if you have two of the NBA’s most dangerous scorers in the lineup and need someone to run the offense and get them the ball … well, then Blake is the man you will want to call.

That’s the case in Denver, where forward Carmelo Anthony (29.3) and guard Allen Iverson (27.4) are second and fifth in the league, respectively, in scoring.

“I have ended up in a really nice spot,” Blake said prior to the Nuggets’ win in Cleveland March 25. “Coach (George Karl) has given me a chance to run things and show what I can do.”

With ultra-athletic guys like Iverson , Anthony, JR Smith and rapidly improving big man Nenê, Blake’s unassuming demeanor and steady leadership complement the rest of the lineup well.

Don’t misunderstand. Blake is pretty agile himself, a guy who can get to the basket if the need arises. He’s also underrated when it comes to moving without the ball and getting open to bury a spot-up jumper.

Mostly, he understands his role.

“It’s pretty simple really,” he said with a smile. “I’m here to distribute the ball, to create open shots for my teammates. And when necessary, to make open shots myself. Playing with Carmelo and Allen, they face so many double teams, I’m sure to get some good looks at the basket. When I do, I have to knock them down.”

The Nuggets became interested in Blake after dealing previous starter Andre Miller to Philadelphia in the Iverson trade. Miller is another guy who always seems to make the right decision with the ball, and Karl hated losing him. But Blake has made the transition easier on his coach.

“Without Andre, we were searching for a guy that I call 'the glue' that holds things together and gives you some chemistry and fiber to how you play," Karl said. "(Blake) has been very good at that. He has been given a great opportunity and right now he's a guy that I believe we're going to finish the game with. Right now, I like his ballhandling and his playmaking on the court when the game is on the line."

Blake’s decision-making is something that enabled him to help lead Maryland to the NCAA championship as a junior in 2002, and earn All-ACC honors as a senior. He attributes his style to New Jersey point guard Jason Kidd, whose game he studied closely while growing up.

“I always admired how he runs a team, how he makes his team go,” Blake said of Kidd. “Whenever someone is open he finds them, even if it looks like the (passing) angle isn’t there.”

The Nuggets seem to be finding their rhythm at the right time. They are practically a lock for the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, while hoping a strong finish will land them No. 6. Most of that has to do with Iverson and Anthony having stayed happy and healthy, and mostly, getting used to each other on the court.

But anyone who has followed the Nuggets will tell you Blake deserves some credit, too. That’s because anyone who has followed the Nuggets can see that Blake just may be the perfect point guard for this team.

Blake admitted he’s starting to feel that way – and it’s something he will consider when he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

“Right now I'm just focused on the season. I don't know what teams are going to want me,“ he said. “Hopefully Denver will. As far as I know, they like me."

Sam Amico is the editor of ProBasketballNews.com. He writes for NBA Inside Stuff and has covered pro basketball for 15 years. You can reach him at amico@probasketballnews.com

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