Trail Blazers’ guard Damian Lillard before tonight’s game against the LA Clippers will be presented with the Magic Johnson Award, given annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association to the player who best combines excellence on the court with cooperation and dignity in dealing with the media and the public.
But before you shrug your shoulders and dismiss this award –after all, who cares about the media and who cooperates with us or not? – take a moment to first consider what it means.
And then appreciate what Lillard has given you, the fan.
Nobody on the Blazers – and probably nobody in my nearly two decades covering this team – has given fans more insight into himself, and his teammates, than Lillard.
In his interviews, he has taken you inside the team plane.
He has taken you to San Diego for a preseason team bonding session.
This is a special basketball town. Portlanders, and Oregonians, don’t want to just root for the Blazers, they want to know them. Players here are predominantly called by their first name. Fans thirst for that feeling like they are experiencing the season’s journey alongside the players.
And nobody provides that more often and better than Lillard.
He provides you a closeness, a knowledge, and provides insight mostly through interviews with the media. He is overly giving of his time in interviews, patient with our questions, incredibly thoughtful, and unafraid to say what he thinks.
It has allowed us to know him better. It has allowed us to know his teammates more. And it has made these 82-game journeys feel a little more intimate.
That Portland has a player who provides this, and one who happens to be the star of the team … it’s special. Sometimes, I think we all – from reporters, to Blazers employees, to Blazers fans, forget just how special.
So tonight, when he accepts this award, I hope people see it as more than just recognition from all of us pond-scum writers across the nation who cover this league.
I hope you all see it as a chance to thank Lillard … for letting us all in, for helping all of us connect.
Reminder tonight: The undefeated LA Clippers (3-0) are at the Moda Center vs. the Blazers (3-1). Game time is 7 p.m. on NBCSNW, with coverage starting at 6 p.m. with Rip City Live.
Today's Blazers' links:
I wrote about the improved defense of Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Hear my Wednesday conversation with Ed Davis on the Inside the Blazers podcast.
How and where to watch tonight's Clippers-Blazers game.
The Oregonian's Mike Richman touches on Ed Davis, Evan Turner and Jusuf Nurkic.
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley says he modeled his attitude after Kevin Garnett.