Vander Blue had already proved so much during three years in the NBA G League. Three-time All-Star. Franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Reigning league MVP.
But, having only one call-up to the NBA during that time, he knew that the opportunity to play on the Lakers’ Summer League team was one that gave him a chance to rewrite some of the negatives that had been said about his game.
“I know coming up in the G League it might have seemed like I was a selfish player or just all about myself because of the amount of points I was scoring and the rate I was scoring,” Blue said after the Lakers won the Summer League title, “but my whole life I’ve been about winning and I want to play with winners.”
Blue stepped up during the win-or-go-home portion of the tournament. He averaged only 9.4 points during the first four games, but put up 20.7 from the quarterfinals onward.
He left Las Vegas with a sizzling 50.0 field goal percentage, which included a 10-of-25 mark on 3-pointers.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 11, 2017
Blue’s breakout came after the Lakers had lost Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma to injuries, leaving a skeleton roster responsible for avoiding an 0-3 start.
Blue and fellow South Bay Laker Alex Caruso did just that against Sacramento. Blue scored 21 points and took over toward the end by scoring 10 in the fourth, plus the game-sealing assist in the final minute.
“We tried to let (Blue) kind of finish the game,” Caruso said. “That’s what he does. He’s an instant offense kind of guy.”
Two games later, Blue was even hotter in the quarterfinals against Brooklyn. The Lakers trailed by double figures shortly after halftime, but the Marquette product shifted to a higher gear, scoring 10 points in the third quarter, including the go-ahead, and-1 layup on a self-made fast-break.
At the end of the night, he had 27 points in a turnover-free performance.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 16, 2017
“I was able to get to the rim early and dictate my game,” Blue said. “Toward the end, I just knocked down some shots.”
And Vander made sure to save some of those shots for the championship game. Playing on his birthday, he got just what he wanted by putting up 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting with six assists to help guide the Lakers to the summer title, despite another injury to Lonzo Ball.
“With Zo out tonight, I had to do a little bit of everything,” Blue said. “… I think (the Lakers) got a good chance of seeing me run the team, show my leadership.”