Trail Blazers superstar point guard Damian Lillard had been enjoying an All-NBA start to the 2022/23 season prior to suffering a calf strain, which has kept him sidelined since November 19.
In his 11 healthy games this year, the six-time All-Star, now 32, is averaging 26.3 PPG on .422/.333/.875 shooting splits, plus 7.0 APG and 4.3 RPG.
Lillard recently spoke at length to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype about his career in Portland, how far he thinks this year’s club can get in the postseason, and much more.
The full article is well worth a read, but here are some highlights.
On his approach to trying to secure extension-eligible teammate Jerami Grant long-term:
“In this league, you’ve got to respect that guys have their own idea of what they want to do with their career and how they see themselves financially. I think the best way to sell anybody on anything as far as staying around is to win games, be authentic, and have genuine behavior. I know that’s what I do best. I mean what I say and say what I mean. I stay true to that because I’m never beside myself.
“Playing with myself and Anfernee [Simons], a lot of things have opened up for him and allowed him to really be effective. Then, the fact that we’re openly going to give him every opportunity to do it in terms of being unselfish. I don’t think there are a lot of guys out there in situations where it’ll be a hand-and-glove fit like it’s been, not just game-wise but personality-wise. We all get along and like each other. I care about his success, and he cares about ours. Sometimes, that’s the most important thing. That’s what our biggest pitch ever could be… I think he’s added a layer to our team on both ends of the floor.”
On his commitment to potentially staying a Trail Blazer for the duration of his career:
“It’s always been a home for me. As an organization, a lot of guys I’ve played with that come from other teams say the biggest difference they notice is this is a great organization, the way that people get treated and how the organization operates day to day. To me, it’s a reminder the grass ain’t always greener on the other side. This has been my experience. I’d hate to be in another place and be like, ‘Dang, this is how you operate? Then, I’m stuck there.’ … They haven’t won since 1977. I want to be a part of bringing that back. I really want to be a part of that. It would just wrap up everything for me. That would be everything. To have invested 11 years now, to be in the community and have my family there, and basically live my whole adult life here, and be a part of this organization. It would be everything to wrap it up and get it done.”
On how deep into the playoffs he thinks Portland can go this year:
“I think we can be a championship team. We’ve got a good mix of veterans with experience and young talented guys. Right now in the league, that’s who you’re seeing are the most successful teams. It’s no longer, ‘Look at this super team over here.’ It’s ‘Who’s got the talent, who can get up and down and score, who’s fearless, who defends, who has experience and leadership?’ It’s all of those things that give you a shot to be one of those final teams. You’re seeing it across the league, and I think we fall into that category. We’ve got to be healthy. I’ve played a lot of games, but I’ve been in and out of the lineup with little nagging things with my calf. We haven’t gotten Gary Payton II out there yet.”