CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One night after participating in the Three-Point Contest, No. 0 was right back on the court Sunday night as a member of Team LeBron.
At one point, Damian Lillard was considered underrated as a product of Weber State University, but now the Portland Trail Blazer is among the league’s brightest stars — and he knows it.
That was evident in his fourth All-Star Selection where Lillard ended with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists in Team LeBron’s 178-164 win against Team Giannis behind a strong second-half finish after trailing by 13 at halftime and 20 in the game.
“I was more comfortable than I had been maybe the first three times and like I said, I’m just older, further in my career,” Lillard said. “I know I belong so that’s kind of how it played out.”
Lillard caught fire in the third quarter, draining three treys, including two back-to-back from deep, to bring his peers such as James Harden, Kevin Durant and LeBron James to their feet with excitement on the bench. However, Durant would win MVP for the second time in his career with 31 points, seven rebounds and two assists on the winning squad.
“It’s all sweet to me, it’s hard to rank, everything’s special,” Durant said. “But it’s cool to be out there with some of the best players to ever play the game and win MVP.”
Lillard joined Clyde Drexler, LaMarcus Aldridge and Sidney Wicks as the fourth player in Blazers history with at least four All-Star nods.
Not bad for an Oakland, Calif. native from the little-known Big Sky Conference.
“Obviously, the experience of just being here, you get familiar with guys you’re not on the team with and I’m older now so when I come it’s like you’re excited to be here but it’s not like you’re lost,” Lillard said. “I think your first couple times you’re just trying to figure out how things go, how things work… you don’t want to try too hard, you don’t want to look like you’re not trying at all, you’re just trying to find that middle space and this year was different just because I felt settled.”
Lillard also debuted his NASCAR-inspired Adidas Dame 5 sneakers as a Three Stripes signature athlete, met with rapper J. Cole — who performed the All-Star halftime show — and participated on a NBA Tech Summit panel.
Additionally, he assisted with the NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game as a coach before rejoining the Blazers for a Thursday game against the Brooklyn nets in the midst of other appearances.
Lillard is averaging 26.3 points, 6.4 assists and 4.5 rebounds in his seventh season, all with Portland, but more importantly feels himself maturing and All-Star Weekend was a reminder.2 comments on this story
“I think that’s another thing of just being here for a fourth time, I think I’ve kind of paid my dues, I guess,” Lillard said. “My first year, I remember I played like seven minutes or something like that and I couldn’t be mad because I looked down the bench and it was Hall of Famers down there, but now I think just getting more opportunity, you’re out there for longer stretches of time and you get more comfortable and you’re able to get on a roll when the opportunity presents itself.”