The theme of Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard's career has been being overlooked. Whether it was in high school, college, or even in the NBA. In his mind, he’s had to consistently prove he belongs.
Even being named to the U.S. Men’s National Basketball Team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics had been a journey for him. In 2016 he was a late addition as a finalist for Rio only to withdraw himself from consideration to heal from a foot injury and also lack of time from the committee.
Now, he’s made the team and is an Olympian. Another “O” Lillard can add to his collection.
“Grew up in Oakland, college in Ogden, and my NBA team is in Oregon,” Lillard said on why he wears No. 0.
On Team USA, Lillard will wear No. 6. Just like his NBA number, his Olympic jersey has meaning to him:
What you need to know:
Barring a late withdrawal, Lillard will become the first player from a Utah college to play for the men's basketball team in Olympic play. Former Utes star Danny Vranes made the team in 1980 but did not play due to the United States boycott.
Lillard is also the third Blazer to compete for gold, joining Clyde Drexler (1992) and Steve Smith (2000).
Lillard has talked much about wanting to get stars to Portland. Being in an Olympic atmosphere for almost a month surrounded by All-Stars is as good as it gets when it comes to planting seeds of thought of stars teaming up.
The 2008 Olympics led to LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade teaming up in 2010. James was also able to develop a relationship with Kevin Love at the 2012 Summer Games, and the two became teammates two years later. When the 2016 Olympics concluded, the idea of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan being on the same roster came to fruition three years later.
There’s a clear trend forming of international competition becoming a breeding ground for stars to team up in the future, and this could be the opportunity Lillard has been looking for.
HOW TO WATCH:
Where: Saitama Super Dome in Saitama, Japan
TV channel: All preliminary games will be broadcasted across all NBC properties. Your local channel, NBC Sports, Peacock, or NBCOlympics.com
Here’s a look at the exhibition schedule, which includes five games against Nigeria, Spain, Argentina, and Australia (twice):
(All games are listed in Pacific Time)
- Saturday, July 10 at 5 p.m.: USA vs. Nigeria
- Monday, July 12 at 5 p.m.: USA vs. Australia
- Tuesday, July 13 at 3 p.m.: USA vs. Argentina
- Friday, July 16 at 12:30 p.m.: USA vs. Australia
- Sunday, July 18 at 6 p.m.: USA vs. Spain
The United States is in Group A alongside France, Iran, and the Czech Republic, who made history by qualifying for their first-ever Olympics. France seems to be their toughest task, led by Utah’s Rudy Gobert and Boston’s Evan Fournier. Here’s a look at the three-game round-robin schedule, once again listed in Pacific Time.
- Sunday, July 25 at 5 a.m.: USA vs. France
- Wednesday, July 28 at 9:40 p.m.: USA vs. Iran
- Saturday, July 31 at 5 a.m.: USA vs. Czech Republic