Damian Lillard Talks Adjustment To Milwaukee, Stotts, Giannis, More

Speaking to Chris Mannix of SI.com, Damian Lillard acknowledged that his first season in Milwaukee has been a “real transition” and remains a “work in progress.” While his – and the Bucks‘ – performance on the court has been the focus of that adjustment period, the eight-time All-Star guard noted that the personal aspect of the move has been challenging too.

“Being away from my kids is tough,” said Lillard, who filed for divorce in October. “In Portland, my life was set up. My mom was down the street; my brother was the other way down the street. My sister was down the street. My kids in school. Just my whole life was set up perfectly right there. It was a great situation. So just leaving that behind alone is a lot. And then you add the basketball side to it and that is what it is.”

After spending the first 11 years of his NBA career with the Trail Blazers, Lillard doesn’t have the same sort of life outside of basketball in Milwaukee that he did in Portland, he admitted when Mannix asked him about his routine.

“Bro, go to practice, go home, watch boxing, play video games,” Lillard said. “Man, I type in (boxing website) FightHype on YouTube 100 times and be praying for something new to be on there. Seriously, I don’t have much of a life. But that’s what comes with making a big boy decision. You got to be down for that and figure it out.”

Here are a few more highlights from Lillard’s conversation with Mannix, which was conducted just before the All-Star break (and before the Bucks’ recent three-game winning streak):

  • Lillard said that the season hasn’t gone quite as smoothly as he might’ve envisioned after he made his preseason debut back in October, but that he believes the ups and downs the Bucks have experienced will ultimately be good for the team. “I thought we were going to be how Boston is right now,” he told Mannix. “But I think what I’ve learned is that some things take time, especially stuff that has reward in the end. You can’t come into it and think that it’s just going to be all peaches and cream. … We’ve had adversity hit our team two or three different times and we’ve managed to still be a top-three team in the East with a lot of games to go and still being far away from reaching what we could be and what we should be. And since Doc (Rivers) has gotten here, we’ve kind of shuffled some things around and set kind of a new foundation of things that’s really encouraging.”
  • Having Terry Stotts on the Bucks’ coaching staff created a level of comfort and familiarity for Lillard that went away when the former Trail Blazers head coach resigned from his assistant position before the regular season began. “Now I’m like, O.K., what’s this play?’ I was kind of in the figuring out stage,” Lillard said of the period following Stotts’ exit. “So when you don’t really know stuff like the back of your hand, it is hard to direct traffic and be telling people, ‘I want you right here or there.’ Point guards, especially veteran point guards, man, we play the game differently than a young talented point guard. We are just manipulating everything. And that’s hard to do for the team and for yourself when you’re just trying to learn.”
  • Citing the Nuggets duo of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic as an aspirational example, Lillard said that he and Giannis Antetokounmpo have a strong relationship and want to continue to improve their on-court chemistry to reach that championship level. “(Murray and Jokic) played together for six or seven years. They don’t even think about it no more,” Lillard said. “But in the beginning, they struggled. Jokic would have his moments and then Jamal Murray would struggle and then he would have his moments and then it would take away from him. And then once they figured it out, they went out there and won it.”
  • Lillard “absolutely” believes that the Bucks are capable of winning a title this spring: “I’d be the first to tell you it’s been a challenging year, but the kind of person I am, when stuff like this start happening, I start thinking there’s a reward coming. That’s how I think because I do s–t the right way. I don’t change. I don’t mistreat people. I don’t cheat my process. I still go to the gym at night. I do my stuff, my body, I do everything. I did think we’d be rolling a lot sooner than this. But I know we can get there.”
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