At the beginning of the season, Portland Trail Blazers’ star Damian Lillard said that improvement on defense needed to start with himself, and in the final moments of the game against the Atlanta Hawks, Lillard showed his growth by drawing a charge on Trae Young. Jason Quick of the Athletic noted that drawing the charge was just one moment in an excellent game from Lillard, but it was a very valuable moment, and the significance wasn’t lost on Lillard.
“A play like tonight is a valuable play,” Lillard said. “It’s something we have talked about since training camp — selling out to the help, having our teammates back, and trusting that the next guy is going to do their job.”
His teammates noticed too.
“Listen, man, it shows how much he cares, because obviously he is our superstar, and he is literally putting his body on the line and taking a charge, taking a hit,” Enes Kanter said. “It’s an amazing example for the young guys on the bench.”
Kanter wasn’t alone in his praise for Lillard’s defense.
Said Gary Trent Jr.: “Big-time players make big-time plays. Dame Lillard, giving his body up, sacrificing his body, giving us a winning play, the last effort to get us the W. That’s who he is. He is leading by example.”
Lillard noted that it isn’t easy to improve on defense, as it takes a lot of belief and trust in teammates, but that the Blazers are getting there.
“I think that’s part of what we struggle with,” Lillard said. “Leaving our man and coming all the way to help one of our teammates, and having to count on the next person. It takes time to develop that type of trust, and this is our first year doing this type of defense, and that’s why this is such a big play.”
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