Former Weber State star Damian Lillard kicks off marathon All-Star weekend Friday night
Gerald Herbert, AP
NEW ORLEANS — Call him the NBA’s version of Bruce Jenner (the track star, not the Kardashian groupie), Carl Lewis or Michael Phelps.
Call him a quintathlete. Or, heck, call him late for dinner.
Just don’t call Blazers point guard Damian Lillard a slacker.
The former Weber State star began his busy weekend Friday night with the Rising Stars Challenge when he scored 13 points and dished out five assists in Team Hill's 142-136 win over Team Webber at Smoothie King Center.
The rookies-sophomore game was the first of five events that the reigning Rookie of the Year will participate in during All-Star weekend.
“I’m just a guy who has an opportunity to be a part of every event,” Lillard said when it was suggested that he might be the star of All-Star weekend. “I’m excited about that, about representing my team and representing my family and myself. I think it’s a great opportunity, so I’m excited about it.”
The idea to overload his schedule this weekend hatched when Portland’s second-year standout was voted by NBA coaches as an All-Star reserve on the Western Conference squad.
Lillard will take part in three of the four events at All-Star Saturday, including the Skills Challenge, which he won last year, the Slam Dunk Contest and the 3-Point Contest. The only thing he won’t do is compete in the Shooting Stars Challenge.
“Once I made the All-Star game, I knew I would probably be in the Rising Stars (Challenge). I knew I would have to defend Skills and I wanted to shoot. I was leading the league in 3-pointers made for a while. (And) I’m capable of pulling off some dunks, so I figured, ‘Why not be in all of them?’”
No other NBA player has ever participated in this many events.
“The fact that I could be the first person ever to do all five events, I think that’s great to be in history of the NBA and All-Star weekend,” he said. “”I’ve gotten great reception by the fans. Fans are excited about having someone that’s participating in the All-Star game being in all of the events, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Lillard is most excited about two events — Sunday’s All-Star Game with the likes of LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant, and the Slam Dunk Contest.
“Once they announced that I was going to be in the All-Star game I got excited about it,” said Lillard, who’s averaging 20.7 points, 5.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds. “But I think it’ll really hit me when we get on the court and I’m actually going to be out there in the All-Star Game.”
Before then, though, he’s got some tricks in store for Saturday’s dunk competition.
“I’m looking forward to dunking,” he said. “I think that will be fun because of the (team) format that they‘ve changed it to. Going out and being in a dunk off, that’s always fun.”
Lillard has some support from a couple of Utah guys.
Karl Malone, who’s participating in the Shooting Stars Contest, called Lillard a darkhorse in the dunk contest.
“I like ‘em all,” he said. “But maybe he’s a little favorite of mine.”
Jazz point guard Trey Burke is also rooting for Lillard, and not just because they’re teammates in Saturday's Skills Challenge.
“We’ve got some Goliaths in here, so I’m going to go with the small guy,” the 6-1 Burke said of 6-3 Blazers playmaker. “I’m going to go with Lillard.”
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