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Blazers Rookie G Damian Lillard Draws Hometown Love, Internet Buzz During Preseason

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Portland Trail Blazers rookie point guard Damian Lillard has drawn some attention during his first preseason.

James Snook-US PRESSWIRE

Portland Trail Blazers rookie guard Damian Lillard received some newspaper notice during this week's trip to Utah for a preseason game against the Jazz. Lillard went to college at Weber State.

Here's Jim Burton of the Standard-Examiner on Lillard's transition.

"It's been fun for me, really," Lillard said after Portland's morning shootaround. "When you're coming up in high school and college there's a lot of school work.

"You've got to learn to manage your time a lot better with everything you have to do between being on the court, going to class, homework, stuff like that. But now I go to practice (and) go home. That's my day."

Randy Hollis of the Deseret News on Lillard.

Lillard said he still talks to his "old" teammates all the time - "They text me just like they did when I was here," he said - but life has obviously changed dramatically for the two-time Big Sky Player of the Year since he was selected by the Blazers with the sixth pick in the NBA Draft last June.

"It's everything I thought it would be and more," he said. "My first (preseason) game was against (two-time NBA MVP) Steve Nash, and he walked up and they actually knew who I was. They said 'What's up, Dame?'

"It was crazy just to be on the floor with those guys and they knew who I was. They knew my tendencies. Just to know that those people you've been watching for so long know who you are is great.

Lillard also generated some online buzz this week with his Licensed to Lillard online video campaign.

Sam Laird of Mashable looks at the video and the Blazers' efforts to market their new rookie.

But the biggest piece has been "License to Lillard," a series of YouTube mini-documentaries that fill fans in on his background - he learned to shoot on a tree and goes through epically grueling workouts - as well as showcase his work ethic and personality.

"To me, marketing is just storytelling," says Jones, who's helped produce mini-docs for a number of other Goodwin clients in the past. "Mini-docs are a way for you to build that strong tie between fans and a player, and that relationship is the most valuable thing a player has going for them."

...

The Blazers have been featuring Lillard digitally, too - as they would any first round pick, but also with an eye toward his low-profile past, according to Dan Harbison, the franchise's director of digital media and marketing. A steady stream of highlights shared via Twitter and a recent YouTube profile have been part of that effort.

"With Damian specifically, we definitely needed to make sure we connect him to the fans, not just because he's new, but because he wasn't on the radar as much as other guys," Harbison told Mashable.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter