If you’re not on the Blazers, Dame Time is one of the worst times of the year for you. It’s most famous episode was Lillard effectively ending Westbrook’s career in the playoffs with a dagger three and a cold goodbye. Dame is on a level where you know you can’t stop him; you can only try to slow him down.
Lillard didn’t have a conventional path to the NBA. After not playing at all while at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda, California, Lillard transferred to Oakland High School. He was recruited to other high schools and AAU teams but decided to stay loyal to his friends, and as a result, he was considered a two-star recruit and didn’t receive a lot of college offers. Given his options, Lillard decided to go to Webber State in Utah.
A few summers in, Lillard got to play in “Adidas Nations,” a basketball camp with NBA players and the best college players participating. A few players couldn’t attend, and Lillard got the invitation. Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Joakim Noah were all there playing serious basketball. Lillard had an excellent camp and felt like he could compete on the ultimate level. He was ready to go to the NBA.
He sobered up real quick. His first preseason game was in Phoenix, and he was matched up against Goran Dragić. If he could compete in “Adidas Nations,” he should be OK here; it was
“I was looking around for help, looking at the bench. It wasn’t even ISOs. He was just crafty, playing the pick-and-roll, manipulating everything, he was just smart. Coming into the game, I knew he was good, but I was like ‘This ain’t Chris Paul or Russ.’”Damian Lillard, Knuckleheads
Dame continued to explain all the variations on a simple pick-and-roll Dragić was playing, combining them with pull up jumpers and floaters. Lillard was overwhelmed. Dragić being a lefty, threw him off a bit as well. It became clear to Dame that no-one is a starting point guard in the NBA by accident and that the average in the NBA is a whole different challenge.
“After the game, I was like ‘It’s gonna be a tough year,‘ cause I wasn’t expecting that. He got me for sure.”Damian Lillard, Knuckleheads
A lesson many rookies learn the hard way. The NBA game is a lot quicker, and you can only catch up with the muscle between your ears – you have to learn to think faster. If you are deciding what to do once something happens, you are already too late.