Rip City knows the tremendous value of Damian Lillard’s skillset and leadership qualities.
But now the world is going to learn more about all of Lillard’s characteristics.
As Lillard and Team USA gear up for this year’s Summer Olympics, head coach Gregg Popovich is thankful to have such a Lillard on his roster as Lillard joins the squad for the first time.
“Whenever I talked to Dame it was about letting him know that he was valued and we'd love to have him on the time. Period,” Popovich said following Thursday’s practice.
Coach Pop also discussed the value and importance of having two Teammates of the Year recipients in Lillard and Jrue Holiday.
“Those kind of leadership skills are necessary, mandatory,” Popovich added. “It makes everything a lot more difficult if everybody is just looking around at everybody else and they don’t know who to look to. So, guys like Jrue and Damian are very valuable in that sense.”
With the videos on social media of Team USA scrimmages in Las Vegas, it seems Lillard and Warriors star Draymond Green are working well together both on and off the court.
Green, who earned a gold medal with Team USA during the 2016 Olympic Games, undoubtedly respects Lillard’s game, but from the sounds of it, he may respect the Trail Blazers point guard’s mind even more.
“We all know that Dame has carried a huge chip on his shoulder,” Green began to explain. “From being a guy who was not recruited by many high-majors if maybe one or two. Going to Weber State, coming into the draft, a lot of people knowing that this guy is good, but doubting him because he went to a small school, the story goes on and on.”
Green also explained the importance of the evolution of Lillard playing with a chip on his shoulder.
After leading the Blazers to a sixth place finish in the Western Conference last season with a 42-30 overall record, while averaging 28.8 points and 7.5 assists, Lillard says he had a sour taste in his mouth after an early First Round playoff exit.
As eager as Lillard is for Olympic play to tip-off, Green sounds just as excited to play alongside Dame.
“Obviously one of the best shooters in our game, one of the most prolific scorers in our game, and also an incredible leader and an incredible point guard,” Green said.
“He’s from Oakland, and he embodies that, he carries that, he carries that toughness. And that makes all the difference when he takes the floor.”