The Kid from Oakland
On Thursday May 24th, Damian Lillard achieved something that not even the greats in recent history before him like Brandon Roy, and LaMarcus Aldridge could. Damian Lillard earned the nod from the NBA community as a First-Team All-NBA point guard for the 2018 season. Rounding out a list complete with stars such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Anthony Davis. If you’re wondering, the reason this is such a milestone in Blazer history is because the only other players to do it for Rip City are Clyde Drexler (1991-92), and Bill Walton (1977-78). Elite company to say the least.
An achievement that will put Lillard’s name in the rafters of the Moda Center and Trail Blazers history books no matter where his career goes from here. He averaged 26.9 points per game, 6.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds. Lillard did that while making 3.6 3-pointers a game on 8.6 attempts (36%). He shot 50% from the floor overall. He beat out stiff competition for first team honors. Russell Westbrook (2nd-Team All-NBA) averaged a triple-double for the second season in a row. Stephen Curry (3rd-Team All NBA) had a fantastic season but was hampered by injury. From the perspective of a Rip City die hard, here’s why this award should make you proud.
Not only am I referencing a solid song by Dame Dolla with this subtitle which you can find here (THEY SLEEP), but there is in fact a larger concept to consider. Per NBA.com, the All-NBA teams are voted on by a global panel of sports writers and broadcasters. Now we all know as Blazers fans how much this league and national media has at times contributed to undermining the reputation of Rip City’s superstar point guard over the years.
His stats haven’t changed much. A few more points, maybe an assist more or so, but over the past three seasons, we watched Dame almost miss out three consecutive All-Star games based on the fan voting. If it wasn’t for the NBA placing him into the lineup due to a Kevin Love injury in the 2017-18 season, Lillard would have been snubbed for the third year in a row. He made an All-NBA team in two of the seasons he didn’t make the All-Star team (2015-16 All-NBA Second-Team). Damian has used this as fuel to his fire over and over as a player. He has stated that not being recognized makes him more motivated as a leader and player.
How the tides changed
In the 2017-18 season, no such mistake was made about the true dominance Lillard has established as the alpha dog in Portland. Portland fans have watched Dame grow over the years. They’ve also consistently watched him take the lead when we had nobody else. This is a welcome sign of bigger and brighter things to come. It’s about damn time the casual NBA fan knows how good Lillard is as a player. The NBA journalist/ broadcasting community dubbing Dame the First-Team All-NBA point guard is a sign that Dame has separated himself in the opinion of his most important peers. He has earned the backing of his most notable doubters after consistent production.
He has taken the step in the NBA community from “good point guard on an average team,” to “elite point guard leading a dangerous team.” When Aldridge left Portland for San Antonio, nobody gave Rip City a chance except for the kid from Oakland. Lillard never took a look back. He ran with the opportunity to lead a franchise to levels his surrounding company in the NBA thought not possible. Congratulations to Lillard from his hometown on behalf of me, and all others who know that we owe these last few years to him more than anyone else. You deserve it Dame, you deserve every part of being called the First-Team All-NBA point guard for the NBA. They sleep no longer.
First Team Demands
Here is where the story of Damian Lillard receiving the First-Team All-NBA selection really heats up though. It’s exciting news for Blazers fans. We all know how bad Damian wants to win as well as prove himself as a great player. It was reported by John Canzano, a reporter for The Oregonian, that upon receiving the award, Lillard demanded a meeting with team owner Paul Allen about the state of the franchise. As a Blazer fan you should love this move. In all honesty, Damian has more than held up his end of the bargain as a player to this point.
Earning First-Team All-NBA gives players in the league rights and bonuses on their contracts that allow them to decide their fate. Portland has always underachieved in free agency with bad contracts. Damian has every right to apply pressure to his general manager and owner to be better on their end. He has every right. Damian is clearly in the prime of his career and the rest of the league knows it too. If he feels like his team is not delivering what he deserves as an elite guard, then what’s to say another team wouldn’t gladly throw the world at him at the end of his contract. More importantly, what’s to say he wouldn’t consider it knowing he can get the job done on his end? Dame has made it clear he wants to be a winner.
The Trail Blazers are in a time crunch to make major moves to benefit their point guard. The draft is soon. Also, Lillard has reached what seems to be a new height in his career. Recently, general manager Neil Olshey came out at the draft combine pushing the agenda to get players that will not be development focused. Instead, he wants achievement-focused players. Players that will be able to contribute to direct playoff success. With the draft upcoming, the Blazers hold the 24th pick in the first round. It would not be surprising to see them take some of their free agent contracts (Jusuf Nurkic, Shabazz Napier, Ed Davis, Pat Connaughton) and leverage them with the pick to bring in a contributor. There are a wealth of scenarios on the table.
One thing is for sure, the clock is ticking. Damian Lillard is surely a player worth building around to achieve success as a contender in the NBA.