A true point guard, this is what Damian Lillard is. Enough talks about how he is a “scoring guard”. Lillard controls a game better than many point guards in the league now. I know, it’s only Summer League, but I love what he has shown so far.
He plays with a lot of poise for a rookie. When Lillard is in game mode, his demeanor never alters. As Joe Freeman of The Oregonian stated after their first Summer League game, “…his body language never changed, his head never hung and when the second half started, it was clear he had shaken the “butterflies” that settled into his stomach before his first professional game.”
Lillard was off to a rough start in that game against the New Orleans Hornets; it was his birthday and his first game since being drafted with the 6th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. The rough start seemed to have no effect on his game, however, as he stuck with it and played the game the only way he knows how. The end result: a 24 point, 4 rebound, and 4 assist performance. Most importantly, he did it in a winning effort as the Trail Blazers came back from being down 17 points at the half.
He has been impressive in many ways. The relationship between Lillard and Meyers Leonard on the court is coming along great and at times, it has been spectacular. They have connected on numerous alley-oop plays during their first three Summer League games. Lillard has delivered the ball perfectly at times, with the exception of feeding him on the block.
His ability to feed Leonard on alley-oop passes and pick-and-roll plays excites me for one reason: just imagine what he can do with a polished player like LaMarcus Aldridge on the other end of that spectrum.
Lillard has a great feel for the game. You can see it on every possession. He knows when to pass and to where get it to his players. The ball moves around very efficiently when Lillard is in the game. When his teammates aren’t getting it going then he steps up and takes charge. He has gone on quite a few scoring spurts during these three Summer League games.
In the third quarter of that first game, he converted on a few 3-point plays to help rally his team to a victory. He also hit what should have been an icing on the cake 3-point shot, but he then missed two free-throws that gave the Hornets a chance to tie. He almost did the same in the fourth quarter of the second game, but eventually fell short to the Houston Rockets. Houston was too big for the Blazers’ guard heavy Summer League team.
The last game against Atlanta was close the whole time. Lillard helped Portland keep the lead with his efficiency. This time, it didn’t take him long to get it going. After he started, there was no stopping him. He continued to pour it on and finished with 31 points and 7 assist.
All stats aside, what I have liked most about Lillard is the poise that he plays with. I feel that this is going to lead to a winning attitude for the Blazers. A strong attitude and work ethic like this should translate to his teammates and eventually translate to wins. You see some players who get down on themselves when struggling and sometimes, it trickles downward for the whole team. This is not the case for Lillard – he will keep pushing and keep fighting until the game is officially over.
Neil Olshey has dubbed Lillard as the Blazers’ “franchise point guard”, and I can already see it. I believe that he can not only be the franchise point guard, but he can also become a leader for the franchise. He is such a cool-headed player, nothing fazes him. I did see some excitement after the SportsCenter top-10 dunk he had over Atlanta’s Keith Benson. Even after showing excitement his game never changed.
Everything starts at the point guard position. Lillard’s game play will become contagious. With Lillard at the helm, you will soon see an efficient and very calm Blazers team on the court.