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All-Star Or Not, Damian Lillard Has Teammates' Respect

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Left of the All-Star team despite career numbers, Lillard remains deeply respected as the leader Portland needs.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Despite averaging career highs in points (24.3) and assists (7.1), point guard Damian Lillard, Portland's undisputed leader, was not named to the western conference NBA All-Star team. Lillard and Blazer fans alike may feel a bit slighted, but it doesn't matter. Lillard's leadership and influence can't be measured by those outside of Portland who don't see what he does on a day-to-day basis, and certainly can't be measured by All-Star appearances.

According to CSNNW's Jason Quick, Lillard is more well-respected and influential than any Blazer since Scottie Pippen, who came to Portland as a six-time NBA Champion and helped the Blazers make their deepest playoff run since the Clyde Drexler days in the early '90s.

...in addition to exceptional skills on the court, the guy has an aura, an ability to influence people just by his presence.

I remember Pippen walking into the Blazers locker room after a loss and seeing players laughing at the television. He went to the console and shoved it back into the wall and slammed the doors shut.

Nothing else needed to be said.

And coaches have told me stories of the dog days of January, when Pippen would will the Blazers through practices with his fire, even though his aging knees were barking and his brittle elbow throbbing. He would shout at those not giving effort, and he would compete as if he was in Game 7, out to embarrass anyone who didn't take it as seriously.

Lillard, with a different style, has that same force, that same power, inside the Blazers walls these days.

His teammates agree. Lillard is turning into an exceptional leader. Veteran center Chris Kaman has been in his fair share of locker rooms, and he sees something special in the fourth-year point gaurd.

"Everybody here knows who is the boss,'' Kaman says, nodding toward Lillard. "Everybody knows who to look to. But a lot of times you look to a guy and he doesn't look back. Dame is one who is able to look back.''

Lillard is the type of leader who builds up, who holds his teammates and himself accountable and who works tirelessly on his craft. His actions speak louder than his words, but his words are loud enough to reach every corner of the Blazers' locker room.

Statement from Allen Crabbe per Quick:

"I respect the fact that he can have 40 points one night, and the next day he is in the gym, working,'' Allen Crabbe said. "He doesn't take days off.''

...

"Regardless of the type of night he is having - good or bad - he is still the one in the huddle, telling everyone on the team to pick it up,'' Crabbe said. "And he points himself out; he doesn't just single out other people. He owns his mistakes.''

...

"You just hear him talking, in little situations here and there,'' Crabbe says. "He always has a moment with everybody on the team, where he is picking them up. I think everybody respects that. When you have a leader like that, everybody feeds off it.''

The Blazers have what they need in Lillard, and it's far more significant than another All-Star game appearance.

Read all of Quick's piece here.

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