PORTLAND, Ore. -- Former Trail Blazer Steve Blake is at it again, hosting his annual basketball camp.
Flash bulbs popped outside the main gymnasium at Lake Oswego high school earlier this week. The photographer asked each kid to smile for their camp picture. He could’ve saved his breath, because the kids were all smiles.
“I not only teach them basketball skills,” the current Los Angeles Lakers’ guard said, “but I hang out with them, talk to them, and create little friendships with them.”
The camp is now in its fourth summer, and the best part for Blake is simple: “Seeing the kids who have been coming back get better. You can really see the improvement.”
The Lakers saw enough in Blake to pry him away from Portland before the 2010-2011 season. “Phil Jackson is amazing, and Kobe (Bryant) is just the most intense competitor ever,” he said of his head coach and his All-Star teammate.
Blake and his wife still reside in Portland because “the weather is great in the summer, and we have so many relationships here.” But his most important relationships are those he develops each summer inside the gym.
“The kids have a ton of energy, they come to learn and I’m pretty excited to be with them this whole week.”
Unfortunately for fans of the NBA, it may be the most they see of Blake for a while. The lockout is more than one month old now, and there is no end in sight. “Guys knew for years this was coming.”
Blake said his fellow players were instructed to stash money away for this rainy day.
“It could be pretty long, the sides are pretty far apart. It’s not what we want,” he continued, “but we have to make sure the guys that follow us are taken care of.”
This week, he’s just making sure the hundreds of campers who came to play with him are well taken care of. And judging by the smiles, it’s mission accomplished!