After appearing in yesterday’s victory over the Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has now played in 73 out of the team’s 73 games this season. This builds on his streak from last season, when he played in a perfect 82 out of 82 games, and was one of only 15 players in the entire league to start all 82. Combined, Lillard’s streak now stands at 155 out of 155 on his young career.
I wrote about his perfect attendance for last season, and much of what I said still stands. I find it to be one of the most underrated aspects of player performance that actually makes a huge difference. The ability for a coach to know that he can count on one of his team leaders, night in and night out, is invaluable.
Losses don’t have to be coughed up merely due to a lack of chemistry. Since Lillard is the team’s floor general, the leadership slot is never empty. The team’s rhythm doesn’t have to be interrupted by a player’s absence. In my eyes, not missing a game is one of the most admirable feats a player can accomplish.
Reading further between the lines, I think this can tell us a lot about what makes Lillard tick. While to some extent, you need to be inherently driven to make it to the NBA, this shows just how driven Lillard is. You can’t will yourself into an entire 82-game grind without truly wanting it.
That’s something that is becoming more and more apparent about Lillard, and something that I am appreciating more and more – his simple, burning passion for the game of basketball. His quote from earlier in the season, when he said, ““If you’re serious about basketball, Portland is the place. I love it there. It’s not a big city so it allows you to concentrate on your craft,” is one of my favorite things I have heard a Blazer say.
Unless you are a truly once in a generation talent (a la Shaq), you can’t talent or cruise your way to stardom. To hit that next level, the passion has to fuel you. While Lillard’s career is only just starting, it sure looks like (or at least I am hoping like crazy) Lillard is well on his way to going down this path. And, hopefully, Lillard will have the chance to log even more minutes during a playoff run.