Following a painful ten-point loss to the understaffed Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers’ star point guard Damian Lillard shared his thoughts regarding his recent struggles on the court, reports Tim Bontemps of ESPN. To Lillard, the lows matter as much as the highs in terms of defining himself.
“I always look at struggles as an opportunity to show my true character.”
“When things go great there’s a lot of praise that goes along with that. A lot of people give you a lot of credit. They speak highly of you on social media, TV. ‘Oh Dame had 60, Dame had 50.’ They speak really highly of you. But I think it says more when you’re going through something and s--- is kind of hitting the fan and you’re struggling and everybody’s got something to say and to me the real ones, they can keep on trucking and keep on going and still find a way to get the job done.
“And, me personally, I love when those opportunities present themselves. Because when I am riding high and when I do get smoking hot and when I get going people are going to look at it and be like, ‘We remember when you were struggling and you didn’t shy away from it.’ I think it will be more respect for the success when they see how you handle failure and how you handle struggle.”
Lillard added: “So, personally, I embrace that. It’s not fun. It’s not easy but it’s part of my DNA. That’s how I got to this position. I’m not angry about it. I’m frustrated with it. I do see it as a challenge and it’s one I accept and I know I’ll come out on top like I always do.”
Lillard made it clear that there is no clear reason for his recent slump.
“I have no excuses,” Lillard said, adding he doesn’t have any injury issues, either, after dealing with an abdominal problem with Team USA at the Olympics this summer. “I don’t know what y’all want me to say about it. I prepared well for the season, my mind is clear.
“I don’t have no reason for it. I don’t have nothing to lean on. I’m not shooting the ball well, and for our team to be successful I’ve got to shoot the ball better, and I accept that. I know that I’m going to shoot the ball better and I know what it’s going to look like and I’ve done it many times.”
To Lillard, failure is a part of the game.
“Honestly, it’s not as hard as it would seem,” he said. “That’s the best way for me to answer it. The easiest way for me to describe it is frustration. You come off and it’s like ‘All right, I’ve got a clean look,’ and it [doesn’t] go in it’s like, ‘Damn, I needed that one to go in.’
“It’s more frustration than anything, just because of what you expect from yourself. ... It’s important to be able to stay level and keep your mind right and keep your mind strong. I focus on finding solutions and that’s without doing nothing crazy to search for a solution. Being unsure and not trusting my work. I practice, I show up, I go through my routine, I do everything to take care of my body, I get my shots up, I’m sharp with everything I do.
“Sometimes failure is a part of it, coming up short is a part of it and I don’t know what else to say other than that I accept the failure, you know what I mean? I’m obviously not going to settle with it. I’m going to keep taking the same shots, I’m going to keep being aggressive, but you’ve got to accept that it’s part of it and you’ve got to keep the belief and keep doing the things that’s going to give you a chance to come out of it and be successful and that’s what I’ve done.”
Despite his struggles, Philly fans still want Dame, chanting for him as he was introduced.
Honestly, it doesn’t shift my focus either way,” Lillard said. “During starting lineups, they were booing everybody and then they cheered when I came through. I thought that was funny. That comes with professional sports. It’s fun, it’s a public thing, so I’m not uptight about it or acting like I don’t recognize it.
“I know what it is and I know what it’s about. But I’m a Trail Blazer. I appreciate the love. I appreciate the respect that they showed and the desire or whatever but I’m 10 toes in Rip City, and I’ve said that time and time again and tonight I laughed about it during starting lineups but that was that.”
Twice during the game, there were brief “We want Lillard!” chants.
“Yeah, I heard it,” Lillard said, before adding with a smile, “I mean, it’s the City of Brotherly Love, I guess. They showed the brother some love. They showed me some love, but that was it.”
As always, Lillard is loyal to the soil in Rip City.