Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard winning Magic Johnson Award only half the story

Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard winning Magic Johnson Award only half the story

Since entering the NBA five years ago, Damian Lillard has maintained two streaks of which he is proud:

He has never declined to sign autographs before games, and he has never skipped out on speaking with the media after games.

“Never,’’ Lillard said. “Not once.’’

On Tuesday, the Professional Basketball Writers Association announced Lillard as the 2016-2017 Magic Johnson Award winner, which is awarded by writers who cover the league to the player who best combines excellence on the court with cooperation with the public and the media.

 “It comes with the job,’’ Lillard said. “There will come a day when people won’t want my autograph … and there will come a day when the media doesn’t care what I have to say. So I think you have to appreciate it, and that’s what I try to do. I don’t take either for granted.’’

Lillard was a finalist for an unprecedented third consecutive year. This year, he beat out Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, Indiana’s Paul George, Atlanta’s Paul Millsap and Golden State’s Draymond Green. Last season, Stephen Curry of Golden State won, and the year before Pau Gasol, then of the Chicago Bulls.

Lillard becomes the second Trail Blazers player to win the award, joining Brandon Roy, who won in 2008-2009.

The award is not just a reflection of how accessible Lillard is with the media, it’s also a recognition for what he has to say. He has become one of the more thoughtful and transparent players in the NBA, both unafraid to tell it like it is while also maintaining a grounded and reasoned tone.

He could be blunt, like in November after a blowout loss in Houston, when he said “We kind of suck right now. It’s that simple.

He could be inspiring, like in February, after his late turnover contributed to a home loss against Atlanta: “Sometimes I just tell myself that you have to go through a struggle. Sometimes it has to be hard on you … and sometimes you have to grind it out and stay with it, and it will come back to your favor as long as you stay true to what you’ve been doing.’’

And he could be prophetic, like in Salt Lake City, when he succinctly captured the Blazers entering the break: "You've got two options: You can either run from it or ... man up. I know, personally, I'm going to … man up. Period. That's what has to happen."

He is, as writers like to say, locker room “gold” … a player whose candid remarks can carry your story … a can’t miss interview.

Keep in mind, this is a league where some players decline to be interviewed after a poor performance or a painful loss. And more in more in all pro sports, players are increasingly viewing the media as the enemy.

In Portland, the players treat the media with respect, and only rarely – Maurice Harkless in playoff frustration and CJ McCollum escaping out the door while everyone interviews Lillard -- does a player skip out without talking. Lillard, meanwhile, answers every question after every game, regardless of his performance or the outcome.

“It’s my opportunity to share what is going on, or what I think about something,’’ Lillard said. “That way, I can limit people having to assume things, or make things up. I can explain myself, or share my thoughts. It’s my opportunity to take the stage, so to speak, to say my part.’’

For the Blazers’ organization, the award likely doesn’t come as a surprise. Lillard has been serving as the team’s unofficial spokesman since his rookie season. But to those around the franchise, how Lillard handles the public and represents the organization through the media is only half of the story.

Lillard over the years has established what can best be described as a culture inside the Blazers. It is a culture rooted in hard work. In accountability. In relationships. And in caring.

You have heard his interviews, and read his quotes which have earned him the Magic Johnson Award.

Here is a deeper look at what you don’t see or hear when the microphones and cameras have gone away. They are little moments that stand for big concepts, and it is where Lillard separates himself.

**

The day after the Blazers were eliminated from the playoffs with a disappointing sweep at the hands of Golden State, Lillard still had one task to perform: Getting the rest of the team to sign off on donating their playoff checks.

When a team makes the playoffs, they are awarded a bonus check. This season, any team participating in the first round of the playoffs was given $223,864 to be divided among players. For the Blazers, that is roughly $16,000 per player.

As captain for the past two seasons, Lillard has made it clear to his teammates that their playoff checks should be donated to the Blazers’ support staff, which consists of everybody from massage therapists to the trainers at the practice facility.

With some Blazers teams, the locker room leadership was not always as generous. Three seasons ago, when veteran Chris Kaman joined the team, he became appalled that the Blazers were keeping their playoff checks. Kaman, who became close with Lillard, told him if he ever led a team he should insist on getting the guys to donate to underscore the importance of unity and having one’s back.

Once again this season, with Lillard going from player to player to assure they followed through, the team voted to give up their full shares. The money was divided among 25 support staff, with some getting more than others depending on their role.

“We divide our playoff shares to give to the people who we work so closely with because they spend as much time away from their families as we do, and they are just about as invested as we are,’’ Lillard said after the season. “They also do as much as possible to make our lives easier, even if it makes theirs more difficult – all while making far less. So it’s a further way of showing appreciation beyond a thank your or a handshake.’’

**

In October, both Lillard and CJ McCollum paid a surprise visit to the home of a Portland cancer patient. At the time, the Blazers requested the visit be kept private because it wasn’t made for publicity.

But the day after, the patient posted a picture on social media of himself with Lillard and McCollum, and the two players were peppered with questions. Both seemed taken aback at why it was such a big deal.

“I mean, I do stuff like that all the time,’’ Lillard said in October. “But I do it because I want to, not because the team says I should, or because I think it looks good. I understand in this position I can help people, and I try to do that as much as I can.’’

He has stopped at a young boys’ birthday party in West Linn, he has visited people in the hospital and he has donated everything from backpacks to tickets to shoes.

“We have to realize we are in position to make an impact on people’s lives,’’ Lillard said.

One of the bigger impacts has been made with Portland teenager Matty Vachter, who has cerebral palsy.

A partial season ticket holder, Vachter has formed a special bond with the Blazers players, coaches and front office. When he attends games, the team allows him backstage access. Positioned in the tunnel that leads from the locker room to the Moda Center court, Vachter slaps high fives with each player as they head and from the court, with each player knowing his name and some stopping to chat. The coaches went as far as charting how often they won with Matty in attendance after they noticed a spiked in wins when he attended.

Lillard, who is a global ambassador for Special Olympics, spends the most time with Vachter.

“I care to make him feel part of our team,’’ Lillard said. “Every guy shakes his hand on the way to and from the court, and he’s as big a Blazers fans as anyone. He was even at a road playoff game this year.’’

**

When Evan Turner arrived for his first tour of the Blazers’ practice facility after signing a free agent deal this summer, he got a first-hand view of what it meant to play for the Blazers.

It was just past 9 a.m., and in the gym, covered in sweat on a July morning was Lillard. And his workout still had another hour left.

Later, as the team struggled and teetered on falling out of the playoff picture, it was Lillard setting a different example.

In interview after interview, often times with his teammates pausing at their lockers to hear what he had to say, Lillard persisted in keeping a positive outlook. He kept reminding that the struggle would make the reward more meaningful, and he kept urging for personal accountability.

In a day and age when stars want to leave teams for the comfort of success, Lillard continues to relish playing in Portland, embracing the challenges and the fight it takes to build a winner.

Lillard can’t say how close the Blazers are to becoming a championship team. He figures it will take some development from some players, probably some key moves, and likely some time. But he knows the first step of the foundation – the team’s culture – is secure.

“Our culture is great and beyond solid,’’ Lillard said. “From the relationships, to the work ethic, and that is not one bit fabricated.’’

Magic Johnson Award winners
2000-01 Ray Allen, Milwaukee Bucks
2001-02 Elton Brand, L.A. Clippers
2002-03 Jalen Rose, Chicago Bulls
2003-04 Jermaine O’Neal, Indiana Pacers
2004-05 Antawn Jamison, Washington Wizards
2005-06 Grant Hill, Orlando Magic
2006-07 Shane Battier, Houston Rockets
2007-08 Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Lakers
2008-09 Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers
2009-10 Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors
2010-11 Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
2011-12 Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
2012-13 Shane Battier, Miami Heat
2013-14 Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
2014-15 Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls
2015-16 Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

 

 

How to watch, stream Trail Blazers vs. Raptors tonight at 7pm

How to watch, stream Trail Blazers vs. Raptors tonight at 7pm

The Toronto Raptors (7-3) had the day off in Portland on Tuesday, while the Trail Blazers (4-7) were in Sacramento playing the Kings.

Portland will have a tough task against a well-rested Raptors team as the Blazers look to bounce back on Wednesday. Portland was down by as many as 15 to Sacramento. Costly turnovers meant the Blazers were never able to get over the hump and complete the comeback.

You can watch the Blazers and Raptors on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers and you can stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

And, have you heard about Blazers Pass?

You can get 15 live Trail Blazers games, pre and postgame shows, and on-demand full-game replays with Blazers Pass! (Only available to fans located in Blazers Territory, pursuant to NBA rules and agreements. No TV provider required. Subscription Period: November 4, 2019 - April 16, 2020. Subscription auto-renews prior to start of next season.)

Don't miss any of the coverage of tonight's game:

4:30pm Blazers Game Day with Chad Doing

6:00pm Blazers Warm-Up

6:30pm Trail Blazers Pregame Show

7:00pm Trail Blazers vs. Raptors

After the game catch Blazers Outsiders with hosts Joe Simons and Dan Marang!

And, full coverage of the game from Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team. Follow us on social throughout the night for the latest updates. 

QUOTABLES

“I felt like we should have had a bigger lead at halftime. We had some trouble with matchups in the third quarter. We couldn’t recover from that initial burst in the third quarter.” -- Portland Coach Terry Stotts after Tuesday’s loss to the Kings

Trail Blazers attribute ‘lack of execution’ and ‘careless' turnovers to Tuesday’s loss to Kings

Trail Blazers attribute ‘lack of execution’ and ‘careless' turnovers to Tuesday’s loss to Kings

SACRAMENTO – Through the first 10 games of the 2019-20 season, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has been known to keep his starters in the game because the Blazers never feel they should be counted out, no matter the deficit.

But Tuesday’s turnovers were too costly.

Portland dug themselves a hole too big that they were unable to climb out of it. Postgame, they pointed to the ‘carless mistakes’ as a big reason why.   

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts believes there were a variety of reasons for his teams’ 17 turnovers on the night.  

“Some of it was carelessness. Got to give credit to Sacramento’s defense – they were aggressive, they were trapping Damian [Lillard], but I think we made some careless turnovers trying to make plays that weren’t necessarily there,” Stotts said.

After the Kings outscored the Blazers 35-21 in the third quarter, it was apparent Sacramento had the confidence and the momentum to closeout the game.

With 27 points on an efficient 6-of-10 shooting, along with five assists, and four rebounds, Lillard explained after Tuesday’s loss that there were certain aspects of the game he and his teammates did not execute well enough, which in turn lead to so many turnovers.

“Sometimes it was our spacing, sometimes it was our understanding of what to look for, I think when there is so much attention on the ball and you get it out, we’ve got to be able to read and react quicker. Guys in the league are long and athletic, and quick, so, when you see one guy guarding two, you’ve got to make a quick decision. Even if you don’t score, you’ve got to get a quality shot up and I think in those situations we just didn’t put enough pressure on their defense,” Lillard said.

The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard went onto say, “sometimes [it was] just bad passes, misreads, getting passes deflected, we just allowed them to have too much of an impact as far as turnovers.”

CJ McCollum had it going offensively for the second game in a row. He finished with 24 points on 11-of-21 shooting, but he knows there was a lot the Blazers did not do right against the Kings.

“The lack of execution at times throughout the game was costly and then we were playing catch up,” McCollum said.

For McCollum, he believes it was ‘a little bit of everything’ as far as the turnovers go.  

“Sometimes we were careless with the ball, like one time, I was just dribbling it, and I was looking up to make a decision, and I kicked the ball right to the other team. Sometimes when we were trying to make the right plays in the pick-and-roll and the defense was rotating over, and other times just kind of throwing the ball to the other team or playing in a crowd. It’s a combination of things. We’ve just got to get better. We’ve got to tighten up our spacing, tighten up our offensive play calls.”

Portland’s biggest lead was 11, while Sacramento’s biggest lead was 15.

The Blazers have come from behind down bigger deficits than that this season. Enter -- the Blazers 19-point comeback win at Dallas

But, Tuesday’s turnovers kept adding up.

McCollum mentioned how the Kings were also able to execute well off the Blazers' mistakes, saying, “we got a lot of turnovers where they were able to get out and run, knock down threes, get to the hole, they got to the free-throw line and a little bit of everything.”

How one foul call doomed the Trail Blazers

How one foul call doomed the Trail Blazers

There was a lot to point at and put the blame on following the Blazers 107-99 loss to the Kings on Tuesday, but I can tell you exactly when the wheels came off: The 5:38 mark in the first quarter.

It was then that Hassan Whiteside was called for this third foul of the game. He subbed out and in came Skal Labissiere. With Whiteside relegated to watching from the bench, Coach Stotts really had to tinker with his lineups.

Labissiere played big minutes at center, the team went small and Anthony Tolliver saw time at center. Even Moses Brown saw time at the five. That’s right, Moses Brown. A guy that was on a G-League roster just a few days ago made his NBA debut because the Blazer had no one else.

No disrespect to any of those guys, but the Blazers never envisioned a season where Skal and Tolliver would play 18 minutes, and a late training camp invitee would see the floor. Injuries have Portland behind the eight-ball, and Coach Stotts can’t get the cue ball through.

Coach Stotts will tell you otherwise, but of course he will. It’s coach speak. Always saying the right things at the right time. Asked about the foul trouble, Stotts said:

In the first half, we managed it alright. Skal gave us good minutes and Moses Brown came in and did well… So foul trouble didn’t really hurt us too much in the first half.

But it did. It forced players on the court that weren’t used to being in those positions and in rotations they weren't familiar with. It forced Stotts to play mad scientist and find the perfect formula for success. He failed, but what were you expecting?

Injuries have piled up and the Blazers have key guys in suits on a nightly basis. Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood are all out and they were all key contributors to last season’s success. Pau Gasol is injured and has yet to make his Trail Blazers debut. When this team is fully healthy, players like Labissiere, Tolliver, Mario Hezonja, and Gary Trent, Jr. will likely struggle to see the floor. Right now, those very same players are playing big minutes to try to get Portland over the hump.

You do the math.

That is why when Whiteside picked up that third foul, the Blazers were fighting an uphill battle. It was almost like another injury, and the Blazers had to find another guy to fill the “next man up” role.

Unfortunately, they’re about out of bodies.

 

 

Help Wanted! Damian Lillard can't carry this show every night

Help Wanted! Damian Lillard can't carry this show every night

Damian Lillard can’t carry this whole show every night. Not without some help. And he didn’t get much Tuesday night in Sacramento.

Lillard got 27 points on just 10 shots but even his efficiency wasn’t enough as Portland coughed up 17 turnovers and blew an early 11-point lead almost as quickly as it was built. The Kings outscored the Trail Blazers by 14 points in the third quarter and the fourth period turned into another of those defenseless final quarters for Portland. The Blazers couldn’t get stops down the stretch.

Anfernee Simons hit a three-pointer to pull Portland within five points with 2:51 to go in the game, but the Kings found two wide-open threes and a layup on their next three possessions and any thought of a Trail Blazer comeback was dashed.

“I felt like we should have had a bigger lead at halftime,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “We had some trouble with matchups in the third quarter. We couldn’t recover from that initial burst in the third quarter.”

And the turnovers?

“Some of it is carelessness,” Stotts said.  “Some of it, you have to give credit to Sacramento’s defense. Sometimes, we were trying to make plays that weren’t there.

“We did some good things, but they always had an answer for us.”

They didn’t do nearly enough good things.

“A sloppy first half, both teams turning the ball over and missing shots,” Lillard said. “A few stretches in the first half when both teams were just gassed. We dug ourselves a hole with our turnovers. They felt good (in the third quarter) about what they were doing and got energy from that. We gave ourselves a chance, but we dug too big a hole. We fouled too much. We have just got to be better about that.”

Portland’s bench made only 4 of its 15 shots and Simons had a rare off night, going 2-11 from the field with a pair of turnovers. CJ McCollum helped with 24 points but was still struggling from three, making just one of his five shots from distance. For the game, Portland was only 8-30 from long range.

In foul trouble throughout the first half, Hassan Whiteside had 17 points and seven rebounds in a little more than 20 minutes.

“Too many turnovers,” McCollum said. “Lack of execution. Gave up too many open looks down the stretch, had to play in scramble mode. I think that lack of execution throughout the game was costly.”

Injuries have cost Portland dearly at both ends of the court but that excuse doesn’t feel right when its opponents commonly are missing quality players such as De‘Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley, who sat this one out for the Kings.

And already, this team has lost by nine at Golden State and by eight at Sacramento. A perfect illustration of playing down to the opposition?

And now Wednesday they have to arrive home early in the morning to meet the defending champion Raptors, who have been in Portland waiting for them.

Instant Analysis: Sacramento Kings take advantage of small Trail Blazer lineups

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Instant Analysis: Sacramento Kings take advantage of small Trail Blazer lineups

SACRAMENTO – A tale of two different games. It's the second time the Trail Blazers have met the Kings in this young 2019-20 season, and both teams entered the game with so many injuries.

With those injuries, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has been shuffling around his rotation to see what might work. He went with an 11-man rotation against the Kings Tuesday night.  

Sacramento turned it up on the offensive end in the second half to now even the season series at 1-1.

FINAL BOX SCORE: Kings 107, Trail Blazers 99 

Here are three quick takeaways from the Trail Blazers’ loss:

1. Early fouls change up big man rotation for Blazers

Trail Blazer fans got their first glimpse at two-way player Moses Brown. Brown saw action in the second quarter due to Hassan Whiteside’s quick three fouls. The rookie looked a bit lost on defense, but worked to hold his ground down low in his limited minutes. Whiteside’s foul trouble also meant extended minutes for Skal Labissiere. The change in rotation for Portland really showed itself in the second and third quarters with sloppy play and lack of scoring.

The Blazers went small in the second half with Anthony Tolliver playing minutes at the five after Whiteside picked up foul number four. The Kings took advantage of the Blazers lack of size. Sacramento outscored Portland 35-21 in the third. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Kings had 34 points in the paint to the Blazers’ 18.

2. Kings turn it around from deep in the second half

The Blazers lucked out early with the Kings not hitting open three-pointers. More often than not, the Blazers were not closing out quick enough or rotating in time to get a hand in their face.  That all changed in the second half. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield helped out the Kings’ three-point shooting percentage in the second half.

3.  Sacramento gained confidence and it showed late

The Trail Blazers have said before that they never feel out of a game no matter how big of hole they’re in late in games. The Blazers were down 10 points with just under four minutes remaining in the game. However, it was apparent that the Kings already felt like they had won the game. Whether it was attacking the rim hard or letting it fly from deep, the Kings felt good about their overall game and that seemed to help them close it out.

Up Next: The Blazers will play in their second night of a back-to-back when Portland hosts the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. The Blazers and Raptors will tip-off at 7:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest and the MyTeams App.

Be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Rodney Hood will go through warm-ups before determining tonight's status

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Rodney Hood will go through warm-ups before determining tonight's status

SACRAMENTO -- The start of this season seems to be bringing more injuries than most all around the league.

Tonight at the Golden 1 Center, two teams who have endured major injuries this season will square off.

Before the Trail Blazers and Kings tip-off at 7:00p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'MyTeams' App, the Blazers and head coach Terry Stotts gave injury updates and more on tonight’s matchup.

Blazers starting small forward Rodney Hood has been dealing with back spasms since last Friday night’s game against the Nets.

“I’m feeling a little bit better, day-by-day, just continuing to get treatment, just continuing to feel better a little bit, so we’ll see,” Hood said after Tuesday’s shootaround.

Hood doesn’t believe the injury is anything to be too concerned over. He just wants to feel like himself again.

“It’s nothing to worry about. It’ll smooth over, over time. I just got to be patient, make sure I’m healthy, so I’m not out there thinking about it and laboring… I’m confident I’ll be back and being myself again,” Hood said. 

Hood was initially listed as ‘probable’ for tonight’s game.

Official Injury Reports:

For the Blazers, Rodney Hood (back spasms) and Hassan Whiteside (right foot sprain) are probable; Zach Collins (left shoulder dislocation), Jusuf Nurkic (left lower leg fracture) and Pau Gasol (left foot fracture) are out for Tuesday's game at Sacramento.

For the Kings, Dewayne Dedmon (right knee sprain) is probable; Marvin Bagley III (right thumb fracture) and De'Aaron Fox (left ankle sprain) are out.

Pregame, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts shared a message that he has for his team at this point in the season.

“It’s cliché, but worry about the next game. I know we’ve got a lot of games on the road, we’ve got a road trip coming up… But [we need to] prepare for each game,” Stotts said.

Coach Stotts also mentioned that Hood would go through warm-ups and then the training staff would see how he’s feeling and if he is able to play tonight.

6:45pm UPDATE: Hood is OUT for tonight's game. 

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

Be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

Everybody is talking about Anfernee Simons' offense, but what about his defense?

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Everybody is talking about Anfernee Simons' offense, but what about his defense?

SACRAMENTO -- Trail Blazer guard Anfernee Simons is already known as an offensive weapon, a knockdown shooter, and a multiple scoring threat.

The second-year player is averaging 11.9 points, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from long distance.

But, it isn’t his shooting that’s on his brain these days.

Simons still thinks about that shot Kyrie Irving made over him last Friday night. The 20-year-old discussed how he’s been feeling about his defense thus far this season at Tuesday morning’s shootaround.  

“I think it’s been alright, except when Kyrie hit that shot on me… I’m still thinking about that one, but I think it’s been alright. I think I can get better at it,” Simons said.

Irving was able to hit a tough fadeaway jumper over Simons to put Brooklyn up five with 17.8 seconds remaining in last Friday night’s 119-115 loss to the Nets.

Simons’ defensive pressure on Irving did not go unnoticed by the Blazers floor general.

“He’s fearless,” Damian Lillard said after shootaround. “A lot of times when we talk about players being fearless, it’s like you think about taking a big shot or stepping up in that way, but, I mean, it’s just being able to go out there and compete against the best and he was lined up against one of the best, and he wasn’t afraid, and there wasn’t an option, and that’s the kind of person and player he is.”

“He’s also [been] going against me and CJ [McCollum] in practice for two years, so he’s prepared for it,” Lillard added.

The Blazers know what they have in Simons as far as offense goes, but at the other end of the floor, the coaching staff is still working with Ant to get better.

“The coaches have been telling me to make sure I continue to play defense,” Simons said.

Simons feels that he has made a leap from his Summer League defense to now.

“For sure, I think it’s just more knowing your personnel and knowing who you’re guarding I think that helps out a lot too,” Simons said.

McCollum agreed with Lillard that Simons has been “growing” on both ends this season.

“I think he’s done a great job continuing to learn – technique, spacing, you know, how close he should guard certain players, and how to really approach the game. I think he’s got a lot of practice in guarding Dame and I these last couple of years, learning a lot of tricks offensively and defensively to where it helps him kind of maneuvering screens. He’s growing daily. He’s very talented offensively, but he has the tools to be a really good defender as well,” McCollum said.

“We all guard each other so we’re constantly learning,"  McCollum added.

The Blazers are looking to keep their momentum going after Sunday night’s win over the Hawks as Portland takes on Sacramento.

Portland’s trio of guards will continue to learn about themselves as they take on a Kings team who is without their leader in De’Aaron Fox. Fox is dealing with a left ankle sprain.

The Blazers and Kings tip-off at 7pm tonight. You can watch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers and you can stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

Headstrong with Damian Lillard: Being under a microscope

Headstrong with Damian Lillard: Being under a microscope

Nobody in a Trail Blazer uniform carries as much pressure around on his shoulders every day than Damian Lillard. Not only is he his team’s best player, its perennial all-star, its captain and leader – on and off the court – but he’s the face of this city’s most important sports franchise and one of its most visible businesses.

And he’s handled it all with quiet grace.

Certainly, scoring 60 points in a game – a franchise record – isn’t easy, but it’s probably not as difficult as knowing that your every move, every word and every gesture (how about waving bye-bye to the Oklahoma City Thunder last year in the playoffs after breaking their hearts with a long-distance three-point shot?) is analyzed, broken down and discussed not only during the season, but all summer, too.

He understands the situation and, most important, prepares for it.

“The mental side is where the challenge is,” he says in the accompanying video. “You’ve got to prepare yourself on that side, as well, with having clarity. Having your life be as pure as possible, dealing with your issues. There are so many distractions and things that come along with being a professional athlete that it can cause issues. And it’s hard to deal with. And mentally, that’s where you break down and have trouble facilitating and dealing with those things outside of the game.”

Lillard talks about surrounding himself with people he loves and those he can trust – a support system – that helps him survive the mental side of the game. You can watch the full video above. 

How to watch, stream Portland at Sacramento tonight at 7pm

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How to watch, stream Portland at Sacramento tonight at 7pm

The Trail Blazers hit the road for a quick one-game trip tonight in Sacramento. It’s the second of four meetings between the Blazers and Kings. Tip-off is set for 7pm. 

Portland leads the series 1-0 after beating Sacramento on the road, 122-112, on October 25th. It was a 37-point third-quarter for the Blazers that made the difference. A big reason for the uptick in points was the Damian Lillard and Hassan Whiteside connection.

Rodney Hood (back spasms) is listed as probable vs. the Kings. Hood played in just six minutes of action in Friday night’s loss to the Nets due to back spasms. He didn’t suit up on Sunday night against the Atlanta Hawks.

You can watch the game on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers and you can stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

And, have you heard about Blazers Pass?

You can get 15 live Trail Blazers games, pre and postgame shows, and on-demand full-game replays with Blazers Pass! (Only available to fans located in Blazers Territory, pursuant to NBA rules and agreements. No TV provider required. Subscription Period: November 4, 2019 - April 16, 2020. Subscription auto-renews prior to start of next season.)

Don't miss any of the coverage of tonight's game:

4:30pm Blazers Game Day with Chad Doing

6:00pm Blazers Warm-Up

6:30pm Trail Blazers Pregame Show

7:00pm Trail Blazers vs. Kings

After the game catch Blazers Outsiders with hosts Joe Simons and Dan Marang!

And, full coverage of the game from Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team. Follow us on social throughout the night for the latest updates. 

QUOTABLES

“It’s feeling better, it’s just locked up right now. It’s getting better with a lot of treatment. I’m getting treatment around the clock, and hopefully it’ll get better day by day so I can get back out there.” – Rodney Hood (back spasms) gave a health update after Sunday’s win over Atlanta