The State Farm National Bureau of Assists is an All-Star team. Whether you're on the east or the west, the agents are here to assist on StateFarm.com.
It's not often that a sponsored post dovetails with our subject matter perfectly. But as you know if you've watched nationally-televised NBA games recently, State Farm has expanded their "Chris and Cliff Paul" campaign to include several current and former NBA players and their "twins". Not coincidentally all of those siblings work in the assist racket, helping State Farm assist folks who have suffered some kind of mishap.
To expand awareness of their campaign, State Farm has partnered with SBNation and Blazer's Edge, asking which Trail Blazers embody the characteristics of their Bureau of Assists members, namely: Vision, Tenacity, Clutchness, Smarts, and Experience/Wisdom.
Today we're going to tackle Tenacity, highlighting the Blazer who exemplifies it most: Steve Blake.
Blake is 6'3" tall, runs less than a buck-eighty, and even though he helped the University of Maryland to the 2002 NCAA Championship, he wasn't the most heralded member of the backcourt from his era, let alone the star of his team. The latter honor went to Chris Wilcox, drafted 8th overall in the 2002 NBA draft. Blake's running mate Juan Dixon went 17th that same year. Blake would play out one more season at Maryland before being selected with the 9th pick of the second round in 2003. From the start the reaction to Blake was less trumpets and glory, more, "Oh yeah...him. Well, we''ll see."
A dozen years later Dixon and Wilcox are a memory. Neither one topped 20 minutes per game for their career. Blake, dancing between starting and reserve roles for 7 teams, has managed 25 mpg in 784 appearances and shows no sign of stopping.
Year after year he's the 353rd guy you'd think of for the All-Star team. He'll never sniff a slam dunk contest, three-point shootout, or any of the more marginal festivities. Google his name and you're going to come up with 24 pages of "Shelton" and "Lively" and "Griffin" before you even discover he exists. Yet those in the know clap with glee when he joins a team, understanding they've got a guy that nobody thinks of but everybody wants.
Why? Because Blake never backs down from anything. Ask him to guard the opponent's reserve point guard, he's right there bumping and grinding. Ask him to guard 7'0" tall Dirk Nowitzki and he's right there bumping and grinding. Leave him alone because you don't feel he's an offensive threat and he'll drain a three on you. (And, by the way, there won't be any of that silly "releasing the buzzer-beater just after the horn to preserve your shooting percentage" stuff on Blake's watch. Give him a three-quarter court shot at the end of the quarter and he'll take that three-quarter court shot legit.) Pressure him off the arc and he'll drive into you, looking for the pass. Play him for the pass and he'll learn to live with the layup or leaner even though they're not his strong point. The one thing he won't do is quit. Ever.
Blake is famously intense in practice as well. Here's a lovely clip of him from his Maryland days. Notice how he goes from the most unassuming guy on the court to fisticuffs in approximately 2.2 nanoseconds.
That's with a teammate. What's he going to show to an opponent?
Nobody knows Steve Blake's tenacity like Trail Blazers fans. Not only have they heard the stories and seen him play, he's currently on his third tour of duty with the team. The Blazers just can't quit him. He brings the kind of committed intensity and "make the most out of your role" attitude that their young players need to pick up and embrace.
Whether on the court or on the roster sheet, Blake keeps coming back again...and again...and again. What can you do besides throw your hands in the air and say, "Fine! You can belong to the club!" Then it dawns on you that he's not lucky to have you, you're lucky to have him. If you don't think so, ask Kobe Bryant or Steph Curry or just about anybody else who's played with him. Steve Blake might not turn heads walking into the room, but when he's walking out everybody nods and says, "There goes Mr. Tenacity."
We're going to do a couple more of these profiles over the next couple months. I think we ALL know who's going to get written up for his Clutchness. (Come to think of it, "His Clutchness" isn't a half-bad honorific...) If you have suggestions for a Trail Blazers player who embodies Vision, Smarts, or Experience/Wisdom, let us know in the comment section.