Damian Lillard has become the face of the Trail Blazers and one of the most dynamic point guards in the NBA. By the same token, the 27-year-old has taken on a mentorship role with Portland, specifically with young center Jusuf Nurkic. In a well-written piece by NBC Sports Northwest’s Jason Quick, Lillard’s relationship with Nurkic is highlighted in comparison to Lillard’s relationship with the departed LaMarcus Aldridge.
As a mentor for the 23-year-old Nurkic, Lillard said their relationship is “almost what I wish I had with LaMarcus.’’ Lillard and Aldridge were teammates in Portland during Dame’s first three NBA seasons. While the duo enjoyed some success, the team never managed a deep playoff run. In turn, Lillard wants to provide Nurkic with the help he never received while teammates with Aldridge.
“Me and LaMarcus had a good relationship. We never had a single argument. We really got along,’’ Lillard said. “I’m just saying the stuff I want to go out of my way to do for (Nurkic), is the stuff I wish I got from LaMarcus.’’
For his part, Nurkic said that Lillard “the best thing that has happened to me in my life.’’ Thus far, Nurkic’s career in Portland has been strong as he’s averaging 14.3 PPG and 7.2 RPG through the Trail Blazers’ first 17 games. In Lillard’s view, Nurkic has a high ceiling and he wants to do his part to help him reach it.
“With Nurk, I know how good he is, how good he could be, I know what he means to the team, so I don’t want to let that opportunity slip,’’ Lillard said. “I don’t want him to feel any less important. I don’t want to be like (sucks teeth) ‘he good enough he will figure it out.’”
Check out other notes across the Northwest Division:
- After considering an overhaul to the Nuggets‘ frontcourt rotation, the team will have to rely heavily on the likes of Kenneth Faried and Mason Plumlee to produce in Paul Millsap‘s absence, Gina Mizell of the Denver Post writes. As we reported earlier, Millsap is set to miss 2-3 months after undergoing surgery on his left wrist.
- In a lengthy feature, ESPN’s Nick Friedell writes that time has run out for the Timberwolves to wait for winning based on the team’s potential. With a 10-7 record, Minnesota occupies fifth place in the Western Conference. Head coach Tom Thibodeau said earlier this season that, “If you’re waiting on potential, you’re waiting on losing.” That edict will now follow the team until they prove they can win with a blend of budding superstars and established veterans.