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Blazers Discuss Impact Of Damian Lillard's Return To The Lineup

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After missing seven games, Lillard returned to the Blazers' lineup. It may take a bit for him to knock the rust off.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

All-Star point guard Damian Lillard returned to the Portland Trail Blazers starting lineup on Monday, after missing two weeks with plantar fasciitis. The Blazers appeared out of sorts, perhaps due in part to the adjustment, and fell to the Memphis Grizzlies 91-78. It was their lowest scoring game of the season thus far. CSNNW brings us evaluations of Lillard's impact from the man himself, as well as his teammates.

Damian Lillard

I would have liked to win the game, but I thought it was a game for me to come back and just try to find some rhythm. I knew that Memphis was a slower paced team than Denver was, so I wanted to try to come back in this game. I would have liked to shoot the ball better, but I was just trying to find that groove back, so the whole game I was pretty much trying to engage myself in getting to the nail, pulling over and helping, getting in the lane and making plays, and that’s kind of how the game was played in my head—just trying to stay engaged, because I haven’t played in two weeks.

You made it through pain free, your foot?

Yeah.

Offensively, what was going on out there for you guys? It seemed like a tough night.

Well, they’re a really good defensive team, they play physical, they got active hands, and they make it tough for you. I thought we turned the ball over a lot. I know I had a lot of turnovers, and a lot of that was caused by them. I thought we had a good defensive game as well, but that’s kind of one thing they hung their hat on and that’s how they got it done.

The turnovers were on them, not on you being rusty? Maybe  little of both?

I mean, it’s a little bit of both. I can remember a couple plays where I came off and I tried to make the play before the play was even there. I remember a skip pass I tried to throw across the court where I didn’t even come off and make the defense think that I was going to do something. I mean, plays like that, I won’t make that play and I know it, so I just got to be better about that, but, like I said, I’m just going to work my way into it and I know that I’ll be better each game.

Is it encouraging or just good to be back in general regardless?

I was just happy to be out there. I didn’t put to much pressure on myself about it being the first game, I just wanted to, like I said, come out and make sure that I was responsible and did what I needed to do defensively, got to the spots I needed to be on, made the right plays, didn’t try to come out and do nothing extra or something crazy. I just came out and played the game. Each game I’m going to work myself in a little bit more.

Do you wonder at all if your presence coming back maybe took CJ [McCollum] out of his rhythm a little bit, because he had gotten used to playing his way?

It’s different when the ball is in your hands for basically the whole game, but a lot of times, I come out the game and he’s in the game, and he comes out the game and I’m in the game, so we still had the same opportunities. I don’t really think so. Obviously, if I’m not out there he’ll probably have huge, huge games and better numbers, then if he’s not out there it’s the same for me, but I think we’ve shown plenty of times that we can go out there and both have big games, and usually when we do, we win games. So we just got to stay conscious of what we do to make that happen, and what kind of plays, what kind of game we play to make that work.

CJ McCollum

No, I think we both got shots that we’ve been getting all year. Obviously Dame missed some games, so he’s got to get his legs back underneath him. He started hitting shots in the second half. For me, I got the same shots I’ve been getting all season, so I don’t think it was because Dame was on the court or anything like that. If anything, I got more catch-and-shoot threes and I had some wide open threes where nobody was even in the vicinity and I missed them. So I don’t think it had anything to do with… I just missed some shots—in and out, missing layups, and that’s nobody’s fault but mine.

Meyers Leonard

Did you reinjure your shoulder?

I didn’t. I’m not even sure it was a sublux, which I’ve talked about before, which is, like, out and in. I mean, essentially it was, but it didn’t stay out for five seconds, it was just real quick. It more scared me. I’m sure I’ll wake up and maybe have a tiny bit of soreness, but I didn’t reinjure it. I was a little freaked out, I suppose.

Was it weird at all playing with Dame again?

Maybe a little bit. You get used to a certain group of guys, but he’s our best player, our franchise point guard. Certainly a little bit probably out of rhythm altogether. You know, it’s different having a guy like Dame compared to any of the other guards. They’re all different in their own ways. Now we just have to continue to work him back into his role, which is to really get it going for us and not only that, but create for others and cause havoc because he’s obviously an unbelievable player.

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