Zach Lowe chimed in this morning with a truncated version of his “Ten Things I Like (and Don’t Like) about the NBA” column and it featured Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard prominently. Lowe calls the Portland All-Star “an under-discussed case for a lower-rung MVP ballot spot” and praises his ability to strike fear in opponents’ eyes.
Lowe begins by showing video of Atlanta Hawks guard DeAndre’ Bembry in a “shrieking panic” watching Lillard advance across the halfcourt timeline and knowing a screen is coming. Lowe recounts:
Bembry is at half-court when he spies that looming double-screen for Lillard and turns to shout at teammates: Get your asses up here, because this dude is about to jack a 35-footer!
Lowe then heads into the NBA MVP discussion, admitting that the Blazers have a poor record, but also claiming that wins and losses aren’t the only important consideration in the race.
For me, team record can’t be everything. It of course matters a lot. I don’t think I could ever put anyone from a team with fewer than 45 (maybe 48?) wins in my top three. Games don’t carry the same stakes below that level.
But the 2019-20 Blazers — down three starters most of the season — are roadkill with a league-average point guard in Lillard’s place. My ballot has room in spots Nos. 4 and 5 every few years for a guy having the kind of season Lillard is having in that sort of team context.
Lowe also comments on the swiftness of the Trail Blazers’ recuperation from the Clyde-Drexler-led NBA Finals team to Rasheed Wallace’s All-Star crew in the 1990’s, part of a larger reaction to the treatment of the Chicago Bulls in the Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance”. He addresses the State of the Utah Jazz and the meanness of Rui Hachimura as well.