Damian Lillard has taken over the NBA in the last few weeks and this week he took over the whole discussion on The Habershow.
Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey joined NBC's NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh to discuss all things Lillard where in the 40-plus minute long sit-down interview, Olshey explained how 'Logo Lillard' came to be, if he believes that Lillard’s game-winning shot over Paul George was a good shot, and how he knew Lillard had the potential to become the superstar he is today.
The show that is Damian Lillard, averaging a zillion points recently, returns to the floor tonight vs DEN. My conversation with Blazers pres of basketball ops Neil Olshey about Dame's evolution will be posted on The Habershow later today. Subscribe now: https://t.co/wjqweMYK8m
The show that is Damian Lillard, averaging a zillion points recently, returns to the floor tonight vs DEN. My conversation with Blazers pres of basketball ops Neil Olshey about Dame's evolution will be posted on The Habershow later today. Subscribe now: https://t.co/wjqweMYK8m— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) February 4, 2020
“Ok, look I don’t know if anyone knew he’d be a first-team All-NBA player, right, that could spend a week averaging 57 and 6?” Olshey joked.
But, Olshey did know that Lillard was a special talent. It was his perspective of previous point guards that Olshey had in scouting and drafting that helped him see the true potential in Lillard.
“I was very blessed in that I got the Portland job two weeks before the draft. But, I had left a team that had Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams and my young guy was Eric Bledsoe. So, I kinda had really good representations of what the point guard position should be. And it’s interesting, Dame had a great workout, you know I scouted him live, because with the Clippers I was thinking early-20’s [in the draft] initially for Dame when we went to go see him, he rose really late,” Olshey explained.
After Lillard’s workout with the Blazers, he and Olshey drove to Oswego Grill in Lake Oswego to meet with the entire front office as well as Blazers owner Paul Allen.
Olshey got lost on his way driving Lillard to the dinner.
Maybe that was fate stepping in?
I said, ‘you know I’ll pick you up, I’ll give you a ride to dinner,’ and we were just driving around, and we were going to meet my whole front office and Paul Allen at Oswego Grill... I had never been, and I got lost. We didn’t have Waze... We’re driving around, and we’re just talking, and I just kept going ‘oh my god, he’s Chauncey, he’s Chauncey.’ Like, Chauncey just had a gravitas to him that he walked into the room and you went ‘that’s the leader’. And I got the same vibe from Damian, he just carried himself and it wasn’t a swagger and it wasn’t an arrogance. -- Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey
In 1043 NBA games, Billups averaged 15.2 points, 5.4 assists, and 2.9 rebounds, but it was ‘Mr. Big Shot’s’ mentality and leadership qualities that Olshey really saw shine through in Lillard.
Now in his eight year in the league, Lillard has shown what Olshey discovered in him from the first workout and that pivotal car ride: ‘supreme confidence.’
Olshey told Haberstroh, “it was just the supreme confidence that you just knew that guys would want to go to battle with him... He was about the right things… And this kid that hadn’t gone through the steak dinners, and the stroke fest, and all this stuff through high school, and AAU guys and shoe companies; this was his first foray into this out of Oakland High School and Weber State, and for him to handle that was pretty remarkable. Like I said, it was really the way he carried himself as a person.”
For his career, Lillard is averaging 24.0 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds and has led the Blazers to the playoffs every year expect his rookie season.
Olshey didn’t just know Lillard’s ability to lead this team, he also knew the five-time All-Star would be a great fit in Rip City and would ‘buy in.’
“One of the things that’s unique about Portland is you gotta know people that are going to get this market, that are going to buy into this. And, I really felt like we had a chance with him, knowing how important player retention is for the small, non-destination markets.”
And the rest is history… Well, actually the history of Lillard continues, but you know what we mean.
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