Sam Amick of USA Today Sports has a very nice feature on Portland Trail Blazers rookie guard Damian Lillard as he navigates NBA waters for the first time. The piece includes thoughts from Lillard, Blazers GM Neil Olshey and assistant coach David Vanterpool.
"I drove him to dinner that night, and by the time I pulled into the parking lot I thought, 'This is a no-brainer,'" said Olshey, who will have between $11.8 million and $13 million in cap space this summer to add to his roster. "Then after watching him spend two hours with eight guys from our front office and Paul Allen, and the way that he handled himself, he just became the kind of person that you wanted to be a part of your organization. His composure and maturity was just unparalleled relative to the other guys we brought in during the pre-draft process. You knew he wasn't going to get rattled in an NBA game.
"Even watching him in Chicago (at pre-draft camp), here are all these guys with big reputations and from big schools and McDonald's All-Americans, and he walked around the gym and carried himself with such gravitas that you said, 'You know what? This is a guy we can hand the ball to on Day One, and there will be some bumps in the road, but this is our guy.'"
"People really need to realize that 'Dame' isn't really even comfortable yet," Vanterpool said. "All this is new to him. Most of the guys he's facing are new to him, the situation as far as having to really, really facilitate (for others) all the time is kind of new to him.
"It's thinking the game, understanding situations, basically driving the bus of our offense, driving the bus of the rest of the team, and defensively sometimes. Being able to know where his spots are, spots that will be open on the court in certain situations. It's a chess match...The game is moving fast, and he's moving at a speed just as fast as that, and if he slows himself down and is sort of like Neo in the Matrix - where everything comes a little bit more clear for him, he'll be special."
Vanterpool offered some thoughts on Lillard back in October.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter