After a long summer of watching the same two Damian Lillard college and summer league highlight videos over and over again (you all know the one, I'm sure), it's almost time to finally see him play in a meaningful game. This means monthsof wet dreaming about his handle and maturity and that smoooooth low release jumper, and contentedly agreeing with the Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook comparisons the internet has supplied for me, it's time to face reality. The kid's probably going to struggle a little bit. The question marks are plentiful; he's never played against athletes like he's going to see in the NBA, his defense is suspect, yadda yadda yadda.
That being said, I firmly believe that the surest way for Lillard to speed up his adjustment period is by spending hours in the gym building a connection with Portland's resident All-Star, Lamarcus Aldridge. Last year may have been LA's most efficient offensive season, and the first in which he earned All-Star recognition, but one of the plays that, in my mind, made him most dominant, was missing. For me that play always defined his 2009-2011 season, you know the one. LA and Andre Miller would lock eyes when Dre had the ball. Anyone who was watching knew what was coming: easy back door or spin for Aldridge into a perfectly placed Miller 'oop. Under Raymond "cupcake" Felton, that play disappeared. If our (least) favorite chubster had demonstrated half the alley oop ability and chemistry with LA that Miller did, who knows how Aldridge and the Blazer's 2011-2012 season would have gone.
Damian seems, by all accounts, a smart, mature, and adaptable kid. If he and Aldridge work enough together, who knows how much easier life could be for everyone. A return to his 2010-2011 finishing prowess (remember he finished something like 5th in the league in total dunks that season), in addition to an encore to last years season of low-post dominance and the continued presence of that sweet high-release jumper that was his trademark in the B-Roy years could easily vault him into the truly upper echelon of NBA big men. Meanwhile, Lillard will benefit from easy assists on lob passes and WIDE open 3-pointers as a result of double and triple teams on the Blazer's go-to guy.
Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to share my greatest hope for this team. There's no telling how good Damian will be, but I think that playing along a guy like Lamarcus is going to be a weekly shot of confidence for him. If those two put in the time together, I don't think we'll have to wait long to see how dynamic Lillard can really be.