Damian Lilliard has found himself in quite a pickle over the past few years. The former Rookie of the Year is among the very best point guards in the National Basketball Association. However, because he is playing the Western Conference against the likes of Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul on a nightly basis, his considerable skills are overlooked.
Nothing was more indicative of that than his being snubbed from the 2016 Western Conference NBA All-Star game.
The current, nonspecific format of simply selecting the best guards rather than electing to rank all players by position may have had something to do with that. Averaging 25 points and seven assists per game, D-Lil really doesn’t have to prove anything.
But no gunner worth his salt could let such a slight go unanswered, even if the only person he had to prove it to was himself.
Damian Lillard has had to prove the doubters wrong since high school, transferring from St. Joseph Notre Dame High School to Oakland High School due to lack of playing time. He was fronted on by Rivals.com who ranked him as a two-star recruit after he averaged 22 points and five assists per game during his senior year.
At Weber State University, he was the second-leading scorer in the nation as a junior with 24.5 points per game. His reputation was growing exponentially, but he never lost the chip on his shoulder, even after making it to the NBA and proving to be one of the best young guards in the game.
Last season, Stephen Curry won the MVP award while averaging 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds per game on .440 shooting from behind the arc. Lillard would average 21 points, six assists and four rebounds per game on 34 percent shooting from three-point range.
With the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge to the San Antonio Spurs, and the emergence of young shooting guard CJ McCollum, the Portland Trail Blazers have become more of a perimeter-oriented offense that plays at a faster pace.
However, the transition has not gone as smoothly as Portland fans may have liked. They’re currently fighting for a playoff spot and are the seventh seed in the Western Conference. Last year they gained the fourth seed before being sent home early by the Memphis Grizzlies and their signature brand of bully basketball.
This weekend, Lillard took Steph Curry to the proverbial woodshed to the tune of 51 points in helping his team defeat a Warriors squad many believe has what it takes to best the NBA record for regular season victories that was amassed by the Chicago Bulls in 1996.
But just in case you thought it was a fluke, Lillard turned and dropped 30 on the Utah Jazz the next day.
There are a lot of negative things that have been said about him by the media and fans alike; “He’s not really 6-foot-3, is he?”, “He’s not clutch,” and “Does he ever play defense?”
But one thing you can’t say about Damian Lillard is that he is uninspired.