Sydney Kings sign NBA veteran Steve Blake

Are the Sydney Kings turning into the down under version of the Los Angeles Lakers?

Wear purple and gold? Check.

Be coached by the son of a former legend? Check.

Both at one point employed Josh Powell and Steve Blake? Check.

If Kevin Lisch announces his retirement now and proceeds to shoot sub 40% from the field for the next six months things really start to get weird.

On Saturday, the Kings announced their recently opened third import position will be filled by 36 year old NBA veteran Steve Blake. His 870 regular season games, combined with his 53 playoff appearances make him the most experienced NBA player to ever suit up in the NBL.

Blake, who finished last season with the Pistons, played for eight teams during his 13 year NBA career including three and a half years with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I am very excited to be joining the Sydney Kings. They are a great organisation that I have heard nothing but great things about,” Blake said upon signing.

“The same applies for the city of Sydney and Australia overall.”

Before being selected with the 38th overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft, Blake had a standout career at the University of Maryland where he won the NCAA Championship in 2002. He became the first ACC player to accumulate 1,000 points, 800 assists, 400 rebounds and 200 steals during his time in the conference and had his jersey retired by the school in 2003.

Blake spent his first two professional seasons with the Washington Wizards before signing an unmatched restricted free agent deal with the Portland Trailblazers in 2005. His first season in Portland proved to be his breakout year as he became the starting point guard for the team, averaging 8.2 points and 4.5 assists per game.

Blake split time between Milwaukee and Denver during the 2006/07 season after being involved in multiple trades before returning to the Blazers on a three year deal in 2007. His statistical high in points came during the 2008/09 season when he averaged 11.0 per game in Portland.

After a short stint with the Clippers in 2010, he signed a four year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers where he played alongside the likes of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, while also being coached by the legendary Phil Jackson.

During his time in LA, Blake battled both injury and illness to become a reliable back up point guard to Derek Fisher and later, Steve Nash.

During his final three seasons in the NBA, he split time between Los Angeles, Golden State, Portland and finally, Detroit. He holds career averages of 6.5 points and 4.0 assists per game.

All of Blake’s NBA experience has Sydney Kings coach Andrew Gaze excited.

“Any time you have someone of that experience it means a lot,” Gaze said.

“He’s played at the highest level for such a long period of time. He’s played with some of the greatest players in the world. (Managing director Jeff Van Groningen) presented it to us and we thought it would be a good fit for us to get someone that the guys can learn from, can bring a lot of experience. ”

While Blake’s NBA statistics don’t jump off the page, he is a high impact player who knows how to take control of a game with his pacing and his intelligent read and react play style. His basketball IQ has been built up through years of experience and his passing ability is still at an elite level.

With Kevin Lisch and Jason Cadee playing at an All-NBL standard in the early part of the season, Blake may be relegated to a bench role when he arrives in Sydney later this week. But at this stage of his career, the 36 year old Blake may be best suited for the Kings in that role.

“The role that we have for him is something that is going to be an adjustment for us and an adjustment for him, and hopefully it can all work out and be beneficial for both,” coach Andrew Gaze said.

Blake, who waited close to the phone all off-season for a phone call from an NBA team, wants to keep on playing. He loves the game of basketball and wants to go out on his own terms.

“Sometimes, you don’t realize you are retired until you don’t have a job,” Blake told ESPN before his opportunity with the Kings.

Blake isn’t ready to retire just yet, that’s why, when the Kings called, he answered.

“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experience a part of the world I have never been to. I can’t wait to meet my teammates and coaches and get started,” Blake said.

Blake is expected to make his debut for the Sydney Kings when they take on the Brisbane Bullets next Sunday.

Kyle Standfield

Written by

Student journalist covering Aussies in the NBA for The Pick and Roll. Follow me on twitter @KyleStandfield

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