Steve Blake no longer contagious

Updated: April 19, 2011, 4:22 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers welcomed back reserve point guard Steve Blake to practice Monday after being away from the team for a week with chicken pox.

And they might just have found their secret weapon to stopping Chris Paul in their first round, best-of-seven series against the New Orleans Hornets that the Lakers trail 1-0.

"[I'll] sweat on him a little bit," joked Blake.

He is no longer considered contagious and was cleared by a doctor on Monday morning before reporting to practice.

"[The Lakers] didn't tell me I had to, but I wanted to be 100-percent sure," said Blake, sporting a fresh white head band that covered up some of the fading pox marks that could be seen dotting his face, neck and arms as he spoke to reporters while wearing his practice uniform.

The 31-year-old Blake has yet to figure out how he contracted the illness.

"I have no idea," Blake said. "It's not like I went up to someone and shook someone's hands that had spots all over them. You just don't know how you get something like this.

"Who expects to get something like that during the season? It's just shocking. But you live with it and you move past it."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who was pretty short with the media, cracked a smile when asked about Blake's progress after being bed-ridden for the last seven days.

"He got tired pretty quick out there today but he was good," Jackson said. "He was right back at the level we want him to play."

The 6-foot-3, 172-pound Blake, who averaged 4.0 points and 2.2 rebounds during the regular season, is expected to play in Wednesday's Game 2 and will see some time guarding Paul, who torched the Lakers for 33 points and 14 assists on Sunday.

"[Blake is] a really good alternative," Jackson said. "Chris outweighs him by about 30 pounds, but he's a really good alternative. We expect him to recover fully. Maybe I shouldn't say fully, but he looked good today. He didn't have stamina, but he looked good."

The eight-year veteran said he had to sit out a few plays here and there when he became fatigued on Monday, but was confident he would be able to play Wednesday. He just wasn't sure quite how long.

"I don't know how many minutes I'd be able to play or not," Blake said. "It's kind of up in the air and it's always up to Coach. But, I'll give it all I have for whatever time I'm out there."

The Lakers called up guard Trey Johnson from the D-League's Bakersfield Jam while Blake was out and signed him for the remainder of the season. Johnson has played well in limited minutes so far, scoring six points in 13 minutes in the Lakers' regular season finale against Sacramento and recording three points and three rebounds in six minutes in L.A.'s Game 1 loss to New Orleans.

Johnson could be continued to be used as a back-up option until Blake full recovers from his illness and gets his wind back.

Blake, who was in good spirits after just being out on the court again, did not allow his happiness lead to a state of delirium when asked about the prospect of matching up with Paul.

"It's never just point-guard defense, it's always team defense," Blake said. "So, I'd like to come in and play the best that I can. But, it's never just one guy."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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