Damian Lillard lies at the heart of the Portland Trail Blazers’ current 11-game winning streak, their relatively high position in the Western Conference Playoff bracket, and the franchise itself. According to the All-Star point guard himself, that’s no accident. In a recent interview with Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune, Lillard opened up about his preparation, evolution, and the real meaning behind “franchise player”.
On carrying the franchise designation, Lillard says:
It’s somebody you consider your best player, but somebody who can carry the weight of leading the franchise, too. That means dealing with the good and the bad that comes with it. That means impacting your teammates’ careers. Not just numbers-wise, but impacting them mentally, and having an impact on the kind of people that they are and how they see things. Also, having an impact on the success of the franchise and an impact on the city that the franchise is in.
It’s about a lot more than just what you do on the court. It’s about how you represent yourself and the organization on and off the floor. How you treat your teammates and how you elevate your teammates. How you elevate your coaches. How you work with your coaches...
On hitting last-second shots:
It’s no pressure. It’s a game. You’re going to win or you’re going to lose. I think I can shoulder having the success of hitting game-winners without getting carried away. And I can shoulder missing it and us losing the game and me being blamed for it without shaking my confidence or not being able to move on from it.
On his crazy-deep shooting range:
I’ve had that kind of range since I was a kid. When I would play horse with my brother (Houston) and we wanted to make it hard for the other guy to make it, we wouldn’t shoot a trick crazy layup. We would shoot from further back. Like, “Shoot from here without jumping,” or, “Shoot from here off of two dribbles, and step back and shoot from way over here.” That was our competition. Growing up, I naturally had the ability to shoot from really far.
Eggers also gets Lillard to talk about his dietary changes, how he reads his body, his popularity among teammates and fans, players he admires, the impending birth of his first child, and much more in the 2000-word interview.