Damian Lillard, the face of the Portland Trail Blazers franchise, has declared that he is ready to take on the challenge posed by integrating acquisition Hassan Whiteside into the cohesive culture of the locker room, writes Jason Quick of the Athletic. Whiteside came to the Blazers via a trade with the Miami Heat in exchange for Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless on July 1. Whiteside comes to the Blazers with a reputation.
Some have panned the Blazers’ trade for Whiteside because of his checkered past. Throughout his career he has been a dominant shot blocker, elite rebounder and proficient scorer, but he has also at times been a headache. He has, at times, complained. At times, he lacked effort. At times, he lost his temper. And for how talented he is, he has, at times, lost his starting position in Miami.
But where others saw problems, Lillard saw potential.
Quick discusses how Lillard cultivated a relationship with Whiteside over the last three seasons in his piece, noting that Lillard isn’t concerned about Whiteside’s character with the Heat because of their personal relationship. Rather, Lillard is determined to raise Whiteside to a new level through communication.
“I said, ‘Listen, I understand you are going to get mad sometimes. I understand you are going to get frustrated with Coach. I understand that if that is who you are, that is who you are,”’ Lillard recalled. “But this you need to understand: I’m here to bring the best out of you. If we are going to win, I’m going to need you, and you are going to need me.”
Quick describes how the new-look Blazers are coming together, even as they still have two more roster spots to fill. In short, Lillard is ready to win with his teammates, new and old. You can read more of Quick’s piece here.