Despite some bumps at the start of the season, point guard Damian Lillard believes that the Portland Trail Blazers still have a chance at the NBA Championship, reports Mark Medina of NBA.com. In Lillard’s mind, the impact of new coach Chauncey Billups is not to be underestimated.
“As long as we buy in,” Lillard said, “we could look like a completely different team on both ends of the floor.”
“You can tell with his mentality and his style, it was similar to his playing career,” Lillard said of Billups. “You can tell with the detail, his approach and just how hard he’s hammering certain things home.”
Billups thinks he can make a difference for Lillard.
“I feel like I’m somebody that can help him,” Billups said of Lillard. “I’ve been in his shoes before. He wants to win. He’s a winner. He has a winning spirit, and all he cares about is doing it the right way. I can relate to that.”
Lillard believes Billups has the experience that matters thanks to the Pistons’ 2004 championship.
“As the point guard and leader of the team, he got the most out of that Detroit team to the point they won the championship when they weren’t expected to,” Lillard said. “They had a good team. I don’t think anybody questioned that. But they get to the Finals and they’re playing against Gary Payton, Kobe, Karl Malone and Shaq.
“They were playing against basically a super team. Nobody gave them a chance in that series, but they came out and got it done. I think it wasn’t about the ability. It was about a team being together, being tough and defending and everyone just getting the job done.”
Billups knows the Blazers are capable of rising to the occasion.
“Every team in the league can take from what we did as a team in 2004 with the way that we played together and the way we cared about one another,” Billups said. “We were selfless on both ends of the floor and nobody cared who scored the most points or was the All-Star on the team.”
Lillard is ready to go.
“That’s a key to us being a level team that we want to be,” Lillard said. “Obviously people are going to look at me to lead that and be a part of it. I got to take that challenge and not just say I’ll take a challenge, but go out there and do it. I accept that.”
After being named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team, Lillard reflected on the honor.
“It means a lot. I’ve always said I want to be the greatest Trail Blazers and best player that comes through here, on the floor and off the floor,” Lillard said. “I take the most pride in putting this uniform on and representing this city. It’s become home to me now.”
All in all, Lillard still believes.
“I wanted to see us improve. I wanted to know that our focus as an organization was on winning the championship, and not just being a winning team,” Lillard said. “We’re making the playoffs every year. But there are few teams around the league that actually want to win a championship and are doing everything to do that. I wanted us to be one of those teams.”
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