By Ben Golliver
The Lakers announced Monday that point guard Steve Blake will undergo laproscopic surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle that has kept him sidelined since Nov. 11. Blake will miss at least six to eight weeks. The Lakers previously announced that MRIs had revealed only an abdominal strain.
A six-week absence would sideline Blake until mid-January and cost him roughly 20 games. An eight-week absence would push his return to the beginning of February and keep him out of roughly 30 games.
Blake, 32, stepped in as the Lakers' starter after Nash went down with a lower leg injury in the Lakers' second regular-season game. He started the Lakers' next five games before going down with the injury and currently holds averages of 5.1 points, 3.4 assists and 1.3 steals this season. Blake has yet to play for new coach Mike D'Antoni, who took over for the fired Mike Brown last month. Without either Nash or Blake, D'Antoni has turned to second-year guard Darius Morris as the starter instead of veteran Chris Duhon.
This injury news continues an unusually rough 2012-13 season for Blake. Back in September, Blake punctured his foot while stepping on a spike strip in a parking lot. In November, Blake was fined for swearing at a courtside fan. On the bright side, Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant gave him a ride to one of his doctor's appointments in his personal helicopter.
Still unclear is how well Blake, a low-risk, low-reward point man, will function under D'Antoni's desired high-paced offense. The Lakers can't get enough outside shooting, though, and Blake is a 38.7 percent career three-point shooter.
Finding a temporary replacement could prove difficult, perhaps so difficult that it winds up not being worth it. Los Angeles is in a roster bind with 15 players, and four point guards, already under contract, so someone would need to be traded or released to add a free agent. Former Lakers point guard Derek Fisher signed with the Mavericks last week, leaving only the likes of Mike Bibby, Jonny Flynn and assorted D-Leaguers available. (Bibby, 34, told HoopsHype.com this week that he's still hoping for a call from someone. Good luck with that.) Without an obvious free agent target to move the needle, the Lakers are probably better off holding the fort until Nash's return, whose presence should bring relief to their stretched backcourt rotation. Nash has had his timeline moved back a few times already so this will likely be an agonizing wait for Lakers fans.
Longer-term, the Lakers will likely seek to dump either Blake or Duhon, if at all possible, as both are underwhelming and overpaid given the role available behind Nash. That could prove difficult to accomplish by the trade deadline, but Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and the resources available to him can't ever be totally counted out.