The NBA universe is intimately aware of the phenomenon that is the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard. But nine years ago, ESPN’s Marc Spears got a sneak preview into the physical and psychological skills the Blazers point guard was ready to unleash, during a pre-draft workout. He tells the story on the Hoop Collective podcast.
“I remember seeing him at Merritt College, which you guys have probably never heard of, in Oakland when he worked out, which the most incredible workout I’ve ever seen.”
“He was in incredible shape, he was doing this drill where he would shoot a three pointer and then run back to the baseline on the other side, run back and shoot another three-pointer. It’s kind of like he kept criss-crossing from one end of the court to the other but shooting three pointers and nailing them going full speed the whole time.”
“It was like a several minute drill where I’m like OK he’s about to drop dead, he’s tired and he’s nailing all these threes. And you had, Portland was there, Golden State was there and there was another team, maybe the Clippers were there.”
“And so he’s doing this full sprint from baseline to the three-point line, three point shooting thing, nailing everything. And he’s from Weber State, like how is not nervous. And then after he nails about eight threes, he’s sweating profusely and then just comes down the middle and does a tomahawk dunk. And I was like Oh My God.”
Spears goes on to talk about the Lillard psyche and his drive to keep getting better, a mindframe that is keeping the injury-plagued Blazers afloat this season.
“I saw him play, fell in love with his game, and his anger and his hunger and he just never gets satisfied, he’s like a dude from East Oakland who wasn’t given anything.”
“Just when you think, well you’re Rookie of the Year, you don’t have a chip anymore, yeah, I do, you’re All NBA, yeah that’s not enough, you’re an All Star, that’s no enough.”
“I want to be a Portland and I want to win a championship here and until that happens I’m going to just keep fighting and clawing and so you think that when CJ gets hurt, a long list of guys get hurt, the Blazers would fall apart but it tells you why he’s a great, why he’s a future Hall of Famer, why he should be maybe the top guys for MVP right now.”
“Because they are like 18 and 11 and he’s working with all these young dudes that haven’t proven themselves and they’ve done better.”
You can listen to the podcast here. The Blazers talk starts at the 27-minute mark.