Portland Trail Blazers: DeMar DeRozan praises Damian Lillard’s mentality, dominance in bubble

Portland Trail Blazers - DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
Portland Trail Blazers - DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images) /

On “All the Smoke,” star guard DeMar DeRozan praised Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard’s ability self-motivate, mental fortitude, and how well he played on the Orlando campus.

The Portland Trail Blazers have long moved on from the Orlando campus, opening the 2020-21 season under the comfort of their home arena. But regardless of the passing days, what Damian Lillard in the bubble isn’t likely to be soon forgotten.

In nine regular season games, including the Play-In Game, Lillard averaged 36.9 points, 9.7 assists, and 4.0 rebounds on 49.0 percent from the field, 42.6 percent from 3-point range, and 90.4 percent from the free throw line, pushing Portland to a 7-2 record. Across the league, stars couldn’t help but take notice.

Among the latest to do so was San Antonio Spurs star guard DeMar DeRozan. One of the NBA’s most vocal advocates of mental health, DeRozan joined All the Smoke with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes to talk about how difficult it was for some players to summon the motivation to play well without fans. Within that, he offered praise for Lillard’s mentality, and his performance.

"“Once I left, I watched every game. I watched every single Playoff game, just to see how guys performed. Being in the bubble, and leaving out the bubble, just to have two different perspectives, and knowing what it’s like to be in there and seeing a lot of those guys perform the way they did … It’s tough man. It’s tough.A lot of us kind of feed off the crowd and that energy, and to build up and have your own energy when the Playoffs came, that was one thing I was interested in seeing. And a lot of guys showed that. It still seemed like … you look at Dame (Lillard), it looked like Dame was playing in front of 20,000 fu—ing people. It’s hard to do it when you’re out there.”"

Game recognizes game, and DeRozan does so here. Lillard was named the bubble’s Most Valuable Player, but the versatile two-guard wasn’t shabby himself, pouring on 21.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.7 assists on 58.1 percent from the field in eight games. The two often found their teams in similar positioning, vying for a spot in the Western Conference Play-In.

Stories of this nature are always interesting, in viewing the fraternizing of the NBA. Prior to the 2020-21 season, DeRozan was often rumored as a potential trade for the Portland Trail Blazers

Even with legitimacy, or how close they came to a deal being a great unknown, the respect Lillard’s play commands across the league from the game’s best players is remarkable. It also speaks to some skills that one simply can’t teach: drive and self-motivation.

Along with his experience in the bubble, DeRozan discussed his fandom of Kobe Bryant, his Toronto experiences, the famous swap for Kawhi Leonard, and mental health among much else in the edition. For true hoops fans, it’s deserving of a listen. The link to it can be found above.

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