With Playoff Seeding Finalized, Portland Trail Blazers own Damian Lillard has more than earned the first-ever NBA Player of the Seeding Games award.
“Willing their way to victory.” It’s a phrase often used in sports to refer to those unique players who, no matter the circumstances, seem to lead their team to a win single-handedly.
In case it’s still difficult to see just how valuable Dame is, let ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski sum it up as naturally as possible.
If you’ve been paying attention, it’s easy to agree with Woj. Lillard has the sixth-longest active streak on the same team and, except for Stephen Curry, has been the most valuable to the only franchise he’s ever known.
But Lillard’s career and loyalty is a different story. The point is, Lillard has been doing this and continues to do so in Orlando, where he has averaged a remarkable 37.6 points and 9.6 assists. Further, Lillard recently became the only Blazer ever to record back-to-back 50+ point games, while also becoming just the second player in league history to record three 60+ point games in a single season, the first being a certain NBA legend by the name of Wilt Chamberlain.
After witnessing about two weeks straight of Dame Time, he has more than earned ‘Player of the Seeding Games.’
Sure, 6-2 is not the best record in the Bubble, but it’s close. Of the 22 teams invited to Orlando, only the Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns have better seeding game records. While Devin Booker’s leadership and overall performance led the Suns to a perfect 8-0 Bubble record, the entire squad has been playing at peak level, while Monty Williams is a near-lock for Coach of the Seeding Games.
Yes, Portland as a whole has also stepped up. Still, they have needed Lillard to give extraordinary performances in each of their crucial wins over the past few weeks. In what has been close game after close game, one or two extra misses from Dame and Portland may have been packing their bags right this very moment.
Every time Lillard strings together a series of impressive performances, the national discussion surrounding him seems to be where he ranks among other NBA stars. Is he underrated? Overrated? Lucky hot streaks?
For those in the Pacific Northwest, and the Blazer fans who have been paying attention since he arrived in 2012, there is no question who Damian Lillard is. A current Top Ten Player. A future Hall of Famer. A player who came from a small school, helped elevate Portland to a playoff contender, saw all his fellow starters leave, and chose to stay.
“Bubble Dame” is not an alter ego or a special edition of Lillard, it’s what he expects from himself. It would be wise for the rest of the league to follow suit.
Lillard deserves the Bubble MVP, no question. See his final of eight seeding games, where all of Lillard’s 42 points and 12 assists were needed to seal the 134-133 victory against Brooklyn.
Even if he does not receive the honor, the slight may serve as more fuel to a man charged by doubters, forever playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Dame and the Blazers will have a chance to pick up where they left off when they face the Grizzlies on Saturday, August 15, in the league’s first-ever Play-In Tournament.