Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has registered a phenomenal season, averaging 29.5 points, 7.9 assists, and 4.4 rebounds in 54 appearances for the Blazers. He was named to his fifth NBA All-Star team and is in strong consideration for First Team All-NBA awards.
His success has been juxtaposed with a disappointing 25-31 year for his team, riddled with injuries, including his own groin pull prior to the All-Star Break.
This week Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports interviewed Lillard for the Posted Up podcast in an enormous 30-minute interview discussing injuries, scoring, and much more.
On the groin injury:
It was just a weird play. I was attacking. It was the end of the game. I kind of just extended, leaning into the defender. When I extended my leg, I felt a pull. I had never done it before. So when I felt it, it was like a little sensation, just in my groin. I reached for it. When I was grabbing onto it, it didn’t hurt when I was pressing into it and stuff. And then a few seconds later, I could feel it throbbing a little bit. It was a dead ball. I bent down and I tried to stretch it out just to see if I could bend down still and it was fine, even though it felt sore. I took a couple steps and I knew I had pulled it. When the ball got back in play I just reached out and fouled somebody, then I walked straight to the back.
[I have] nine full days [during the All-Star break]. A lot of treatment and a lot of time to try and figure it out and test it out. But the groin is nothing to play with, so I’m going to take my time and just try to do all the things I can do to give myself the best chance to be ready when we come back after the break. But if not, maybe miss one game after the break, or one or two more games.
On his scoring streak:
It’s a team game. To me it’s not just about wins and losses all the time. It means something to me when Moses Brown gets into the game, when Jaylen Hoard gets into the game. When they get out there, they’re looking like they know who’s the star on the team: me and CJ [McCollum] and ‘Melo. They know that. But it’s important for me to make them feel like we’re teammates. “You belong out here. I’m going to give you an opportunity to show what you need to do.” That’s so important to me that I was just like, “I’m going to be patient with everything: with the injuries, with us playing our young guys, us having two-way guys, everything.” At times it was a little bit frustrating because we were losing. Any time you’re losing, and we had been winning all this time, you’re going to have frustration. But it was more important to me to feel a part of a team and have everybody feel like they’re part of the team.
I was just going with that and then once we got to the point where it was like, “Alright, I’ve got to start forcing my hand for the sake of us coming out on top a few more times.” So I was like, “If I go for it and we come up short, then I know my intention was right. I was doing it to get us going in the right direction.
It was working, so I just kept my foot on the gas.
Lillard also talked diets, his relationship with Haynes, his memories of Kobe Bryant, even more on his scoring streak, and much more in the podcast, clearly one of the best of the year.