Individually, Damian Lillard is having the best season of his career. However, due to the Portland Trail Blazers’ up-and-down season thus far, he may not be getting the credit he is due.
Lillard is averaging career-highs in points (26.2), rebounds (4.8), and field goal percentage (44.5%) but could very well be on the outside looking in in terms of NBA All-Star selection. A notable snub last season, Lillard thinks he is still among the best in the league, and rightly so. He is currently ranked seventh in the league for points per game, ahead of seven out of the 10 All-Star Game starters (including Kevin Durant and Lebron James).
Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype caught up with the 2016 All-Star snub, who stands at the brink of joining Michael Redd and Purvis Short as one of the only players to post back-to-back seasons with 25+ points per game, without an All-Star selection in either, if not chosen to participate this season.
Lillard had a lot to say...
On his place among the league’s best players:
There are a lot of really good players in the league, but I think when you talk about the best players, they’re the ones who can do it every night. People talk about it being a long season and some nights your body isn’t really up to playing, you’re traveling a lot because of the schedule, teams are locking in on you and stuff like that, but your team needs you to produce every night. Some guys can’t do it every night, either because they don’t have the mental capacity or they don’t have the want-to to be able to bring it at an elite level. I think every year I’ve been in the league, I’ve done that.
On his indifference toward point guard rankings:
I don’t really care about rankings. I think if you ask 10 different people, you’ll get 10 different answers. But while the order of each list would be different, you’d have the same guys [somewhere on each list] and I’m in that group of guys. When I go out there, I don’t think anybody is better than me. I go out there and feel like I’m going to be the best player, and that’s the way it should be.
On the team’s recent struggles:
We have to be more consistent. I think we do too many things in spurts and we don’t have the luxury to do that. We have to be sharper more often. There are too many lapses. I think the more consistent we are, the better chance we give ourselves down the stretch of games. We just haven’t been consistent enough. We’re fortunate to be in the position that we’re in, where we’re still fighting for a playoff spot. It’s going to come down to which team can move forward, keep working and stay with it for the long haul. I think we definitely have that in us.
And on NBA trade rumors:
I hear stuff, but I don’t go searching for it. I know it’s out there and sometimes people mention it to me. I’ve never heard my name mentioned in a trade rumor. But even if it was, it’s out of my control. I know my team knows my value to the organization, so I just play. Whatever people decide to do, it is what it is.
But did not address whether or not he should be an All-Star this year. He did, however, affirm his belief that he is one of the best players in the NBA. It remains to be seen whether Lillard (or teammate CJ McCollum) will be selected to represent Portland in this year’s All-Star Game in New Orleans, but knowing Lillard, he would probably trade the opportunity of individual success to get the team a few more wins and a higher seed in the playoffs, which seems to be his primary focus.
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