Having missed the playoffs in his first NBA season, Damian Lillard admits that he was not hit as hard by the letdown as teammates that had previously tasted the post-season. However, losing games at all was a source of frustration for him, especially down the stretch. Dropping 13 straight was difficult to watch, but it must have been much harder to actually endure.
You know what? Good. I’m glad the Blazers are frustrated. It’s easier to put a city on your back when there’s already a chip on your shoulder. In an interview with Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, Damian Lillard spoke of his own frustration with last season’s outcome, as well as the frustration of media victim, LaMarcus Aldridge, and he has a very simple action plan:
I talked to LA a lot and I’m always trying to figure out what I can do to help him, how I can make the game easier for him, because he’s the all-star, the best player on the team, number one option—whatever you want to call it, and I’m the point guard, so it’s my job to make the game easier for him. I think the better I can make him, the easier the game will come to me.
This means a good deal, coming from a scoring point guard. Notice the subtle difference between a scoring point guard, and a shoot first point guard. Damian Lillard is the former, while backup Mo Williams is the latter. Although Lillard’s gaudy numbers are likely to dip from last season, I’m glad and entirely unsurprised to see that he is prepared to further put his team before himself.
This all translates to good basketball. With the addition of CJ McCollum, a lot of pressure is taken off of Lillard. Not only can McCollum shoot and space the floor (as Damian detailed in the interview), but he can handle the ball well enough to allow Damian to play off-the-ball if he so desires. This all translates to good basketball.
The Blazers are gearing up for a big season, so knowing that Damian Lillard is comfortable with the new dynamic and has honed in on a possible ways to succeed is reassuring. It would seem that last season’s frustrations have not soured his outlook, but have also not been forgotten. The great ones turn failure into motivation, and I believe the Blazers’ new additions have greased the wheels for Lillard to really get rolling.