Ex-Terp Blake Fitting In Fast With Nuggets

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 22, 2007

DENVER, Jan. 21 -- It's all happening so fast for Steve Blake. Not only the up-tempo, high-wire offense he has been asked to quarterback in Denver, but also how quickly he has had to adjust to the Nuggets.

Blake, a former Maryland star and an ex-Washington Wizard, has played just four games with his new team, but he has already posted the best performance of his career, earned the praise of the coach who initially didn't support his arrival and picked up a nickname.

After Blake penetrated into the lane, drew two defenders and pitched an underhand pass to Marcus Camby for a dunk -- and again, after Blake led a fast break and tossed an over-the-shoulder flip to a trailing Reggie Evans for another jam on Friday -- the public address announcer at Pepsi Center said: ". . . and the dime from Stevie B!"

"Stevie B" is averaging 14 points, 4.8 assists and 2.2 steals since joining the Nuggets. When he was traded, for the second time in six months, he didn't really know how to react. "It messes with your mind a little bit, trying to stay focused and stay positive," Blake said about being traded from Portland to Milwaukee last summer, then Milwaukee to Denver earlier this month. "To get traded to somewhere like here, things have been great right away. This is the sort of situation that I think that I can thrive in."

Blake, a career 38.5 percent three-point shooter, earns slightly more than $1 million, but in the past five months, he has been traded for three players -- Jamaal Magloire, Earl Boykins and Julius Hodge -- who make a combined $12.45 million. "That's crazy," Blake said with a laugh. "That's a good sign, because I'm a free agent this summer. I think it's a compliment."

After having a bumpy transition in Portland and Milwaukee, Blake was thrust into the starting lineup his second game in Denver and scored a career-high 25 points with five three-pointers during a win at Portland. Nuggets Coach George Karl hated to part with 5-foot-5 dynamo and fan favorite Boykins to get Blake, but he is pleased to have a pass-first point guard who can let Allen Iverson play freely, hit three-pointers and speed up the game. "He's probably been the best guard that I've had since I've been here that pushes the ball up the floor," said Karl, in his second full season with the Nuggets. "We needed a lift and he's given us one."

Blake already seems to have an answer to one of the biggest questions in Denver, with NBA leading scorer Carmelo Anthony returning to the lineup today from a 15-game suspension. Asked who would get the ball on a fast break if he has Anthony on one side and Iverson, the league's third-leading scorer, on the other, Blake said, "Whoever is open or whoever is hot."

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