For Lillard, no time to lose in righting Blazers’ playoff wrongs

On Friday, Lillard handed LaMarcus Aldridge for No. 2 on the membership’s all-time scoring listing (trailing solely Clyde Drexler). The surface world as soon as swirled with rumors of a beef with Aldridge, now a seven-time All-Star who bolted for San Antonio in free company after two seasons with Lillard (2013-15).

“That’s unlucky, how that notion performed out,” Lillard stated. “It’s humorous. We have now extra of a relationship now after we’re not teammates than after we had been teammates. That’s not a destructive factor. We by no means had a problem as teammates.


Damian Lillard dominated in a loss to the Thunder earlier this month.

“We by no means had an argument. It was simply outdoors noise and we by no means took the time to speak and say `this ain’t actual, I don’t really feel that approach.’ However it’s typical across the NBA, each time two good teammates are paired collectively they attempt to flip them in opposition to one another, evaluating them and all that stuff as a substitute of letting them be teammates.

“Now I’ve performed extra years with out him than with him. When he left I used to be put in a distinct position of management, duty, redemption and every thing needed to go up. Him leaving Portland allowed me attending to No. 2 to occur. Had he stayed, he would in all probability be No. 1 (on the scoring listing) and I wouldn’t have the possibility to go him till yr 15. Every part occurred for a purpose.”

Lillard is grateful for the franchise as a result of it was offered on him from the leap. In highschool, Lillard wasn’t closely recruited and wound up at Weber State, which didn’t provide the big-school publicity benefits. But the Blazers drafted him No. 6 in 2012 and positioned the ball in his fingers, the place it has been ever since.


Have a look again at a younger Damian Lillard within the 2012 NBA Summer season League.

“I led the league in minutes as a rookie,” he stated. “Perhaps in the event that they hadn’t given me that chance and freedom to have the chance to be me, then perhaps we wouldn’t be right here collectively. I owe lots of people, our teaching employees and group to permit me to do that from day one.”

Lillard has been an instance of sturdiness and dedication, by no means lacking a sport his first three seasons as he has not missed greater than 9 video games per season since then. Alongside the way in which, he has represented himself and Portland properly, a refreshing change for a franchise that endured the “Jail Blazers” regime and felt robbed by the fixed accidents of Greg Oden, the previous No. 1 general decide chosen forward of Kevin Durant in 2007.

Lillard, now a four-time All-Star, turned good shortly and enjoyable to observe. The 6-foot-Three combo guard is rarely bashful about launching 30 footers or difficult larger defenders on the rim.


Check out among the performs that made Damian Lillard an All-Star this season.

That stated, he typically bristles at what he perceives as a scarcity of respect — maybe borne of taking part in on the West Coast and in a small-market city — which is usually taken the incorrect approach. What some may even see as whining is a participant with a way of pleasure who desires his simply due. Lillard has by no means been an All-Star starter. Final season was Lillard’s inaugural one on the All-NBA first workforce, the honour coming on the expense of Russell Westbrook — who averaged a triple-double and was named Kia MVP in 2016-17.

“I’m among the finest gamers within the NBA,” stated Lillard, unwilling to restrict his standing to level guards. “Inform me how I’m not? That’s not pleasure speaking. That’s information.”

He paused.

“I’ve a chip on my shoulder for a way I needed to get right here and the place I come from, and likewise how I’m seen. Typically I’m delusional about it. I is perhaps incorrect once I make myself suppose sure stuff. However it works for me. Each little factor I take advantage of as wooden on the hearth.”


Sting from ouster nonetheless looms 

All that’s separating Lillard from a seat on the desk of greatness is Portland taking part in in late Could or early June. A lot will rely on the restoration of backcourt mate CJ McCollum (popliteus pressure), who may very well be out every week. Whereas the Blazers are deep, there’s nobody participant who can assume McCollum’s position.

“You’re involved for him as a buddy, before everything, and he’s so massive for our workforce that you just get involved for that,” Lillard stated. “We have now guys who could make up for the scoring by committee, however you additionally take them away from their roles. We’re going to should lean on one another a bit of bit extra.”


The Blazers have a new-found swagger and confidence in 2018-19.

Whereas the Golden State Warriors are as soon as once more robust favorites, they’re not unbeatable. Everybody else within the West brings a flaw. The Blazers added offensive-minded massive man Enes Kanter final month, and he’s been considerably spectacular since. Kanter ought to fortify Portland’s frontcourt with Jusuf Nurkic and convey higher stability to a workforce that lengthy relied on Lillard and McCollum.

“Final yr we received so sizzling and peaked actually early,” stated Lillard, mentioning their 13-game win streak after the All-Star break, “and I used to be like, ‘man, I don’t know the way lengthy any workforce apart from the Warriors just a few years in the past can simply play at that degree for 2 months straight earlier than you have got a tough spot.’ I thought of that final yr after we went on that lengthy profitable streak and beating a bunch of fine groups. I might’ve beloved for this streak to come back proper earlier than the playoffs and going into the playoffs. This time we’re taking part in good basketball nevertheless it’s not like every thing goes our approach. I just like the stability of it.”

After beating the Warriors by 22 final month, the Blazers went East and beat the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and narrowly misplaced to the Toronto Raptors. What did Lillard take from that?

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