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Isiah Thomas: Damian Lillard Needs to Become Vocal Leader

The Hall-of-Fame point guard says Portland’s all-star should work on inspiring his teammates.

Portland Trail Blazers v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is likely on a Hall-of-Fame trajectory if his career continues as it has during his first six seasons in the NBA. That didn’t stop current Hall-of-Famer Isiah Thomas from critiquing Lillard during halftime of Tuesday evening’s game between the Blazers and Cleveland Cavaliers on NBATV. Addressing fellow broadcaster Chris Webber, Thomas suggested that Lillard didn’t need work on the physical game as much as team inspiration and emotion.

Here’s the transcript of the interview.

Webber: Where can Lillard get better?

Thomas : I think he has to get better as a leader...and what I mean..not his physical leadership because we see that on the floor in terms of him being able to shoot the basketball and distribute everything else but can he become the type of vocal leader that inspires his players to get better. can he inspire his teammates become better.

CW: Give us an example of what you did.

IT: I felt like when you talk about leadership there’s physical leadership in terms of me showing up and then there’s the verbal you know reinforcing the habit. can you help your teammates get better, can you help inspire them to go beyond their individual talent. It’s like, can I help Laimbeer to become a better player, can I help John Salley to become a better basketball player.

CW: When you grabbed Salley, you told me this story before where you grabbed him at halftime and I wish I would’ve known this a player to help me be a better leader, and you basically told him forget the coach <garbled> this is what this game means to us and this is what we need you to do to go and get it.

IT: that, those type of verbal skills I think Lillard needs to be able to give to his teammates but give it to them in such a way that they can accept it not as him criticizing them, but really inspiring them to do better and to become more. I think that’s where I see he’s missing that in terms of his leadership skills. That’s the next thing he needs to develop with him.