Damian Lillard’s Time Is Now
Damian Lillard’s Time Is Now
by Jake Barrett
When LaMarcus Aldridge left “Rip City” for San Antonio, general consensus among NBA fans was the Portland Trail Blazers’ chance to make a run for a championship was temporarily on hold. Portland made the playoffs the previous two seasons with the help of Aldridge and all hope seemed to go out the window with his decision to leave for San Antonio. More than a year later, Portland is fresh off a loss in the conference semi-finals to the Golden State Warriors and are looking to make yet another run for a conference championship.
These hopes and dreams rest on the shoulders of Damian Lillard, a player who has been underrated since high school. Hailing from the bay area in northern California, Lillard attended St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda, California where the legendary Jason Kidd once reigned. He soon transferred because his playing time was limited as he found himself back in Oakland at Oakland High School for his junior and senior years. Although he averaged 22.4 points and 5.2 assists per game his senior year, Rivals.com ranked Lillard as a two-star recruit. He then accepted a scholarship opportunity to Weber State University.
There, in his redshirt junior year, Lillard averaged 24.5 points per game and won his second Big Sky Player of the Year award. It became apparent he was ready for the next level and became available for the 2012 NBA Draft. Even though Lillard was selected with the 6th overall pick, he was still taken behind the likes of Dion Waiters and Thomas Robinson. Yet again, Damian Lillard was flying under-the-radar the second he was officially an NBA players.
Lillard’s first two seasons with Portland showed the potential in the young guard, as well as hope for the future. He was the unanimous 2013 Rookie of the Year, and earned a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team. Also, he was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for games played in April to go with the Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards for the entire 2012–2013 season. His sophomore year had high expectations, hoping to exceed the great numbers he accomplished as a rookie. He did, raising his points per game averaged by 1.7 to 21.7 points, as well as his assists per game by almost half an assist per contest. The next year, Lillard averaged 20.7 points, 5.6 assists, and 3.5 rebounds on the season and helped lead Portland to a 54-28 record. Portland finished fifth in the western conference and would meet the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs. In 2013-14 and 2014-15, Damian Lillard made the All-Star team by the skin of his teeth; an action that many felt he deserved with ease.
In his 4th season, Lillard finished the year with an impressive 25.1 points and 6.8 assists per game. Damian Lillard is arguably one of the best point guards in the NBA and luckily for Portland fans, he has plans of staying in Portland for years to come. When asked about Durant joining the Warriors this past offseason, Lillard told Jim Rome that a move like that is “something I couldn’t see myself doing.”
Damian Lillard is the ultimate competitor. When you doubt him, he will prove you wrong, time and time again. Believing in Damian Lillard paid off for Weber State and it has paid off for the Portland Trail Blazers as well. Is he a future MVP? Is he a future NBA Champion? As history will have it, Damian Lillard has proved more people wrong than right. The Big Sky Conference was supposed to be his limit in basketball but the big sky is truly the limit for his career.