Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard talks NBA Playoffs and Joel Freeland

Q: What was the biggest lesson you learned in the last two seasons that you’ll bring into this year’s playoffs?

Lillard: I think the biggest thing is just to stay in the moment. We got off to a 2-0 lead on the road last year and it’s been easy for us to get complacent but we stayed focused. We’ll figure out what we need to do to give ourselves the best chance to win it. The best lesson was playing against the Spurs. I think they showed us a great example of the brand of basketball that you need to play to be champions. I think we took a lot home from that series.

Q: How important is Joel Freeland to the Blazers’ success?

Lillard: Joel is a lot more important than people think he is. He’s one of those guys that in practice he’s constantly challenging guys and he’s competing and one of our better defenders. Every time Joel gets in the game you know what you are going to get from him. Anytime you have a guy like that – that you know what you’re going get every time – it’s comforting as a teammate and I’m sure as a coach.

Q: Portland has the record of the most double-digit comebacks this season so far. Do you think that is something that gives you comfort when you go into the Playoffs considering you have to play games on the road and at home regularly?

Lillard: Yeah, I think our team’s ability to play from behind and get ourselves back in games is definitely one of the best. We get a lot of confidence from the fact that we know that in any situation, we can make it a game. We can give ourselves a chance to win it. Going forward into the playoffs, that’s something we have in our pocket.

Q: Coach Terry Stotts has registered 250 NBA career wins as a coach. What were the most significant things you’ve learned from coach Terry?

Lillard: Playing for him you know, has made my career what it is in a way. I just learned that sometimes you got to put people in the fire. From day one he just put me out there and he let me make mistakes, let me run into mistakes and let me grow from things. You know, I learned that sometimes when you want to grow you got to let it, you got to burn first, you got to feel the pain first and that’s how it was in my rookie year. It was a little bit of a struggle, and then because of him allowing me to do that, putting me in that position, I was allowed to have my second year the way I did, and then I had a good third year. I think that’s the biggest lesson I learned from being around him.

Q: You talked about the ability of making clutch shots already. If you need to pick three other players of making a clutch shot, who would that be?

Lillard: Steph Curry, James Harden and Kevin Durant because I’ve seen all three of them close games out with confidence.

Q: First season you won ROY, second year All-Star, again All-Star for this season also. Is it easy to motivate yourself after all that?

Lillard: You know, when you have peers like mine, with so many high-level point guards and you want to be considered one of the best, it’s a constant job. You’re constantly working at your game, and constantly trying to will your team to win so you can be in that elite company. It’s easy to motivate myself. I haven’t won a championship yet, there’s a lot of things that I haven’t accomplished. I’m still early in my career, I got a lot that I can be better at and a lot that I need to accomplish.

Q: How would you describe your growth in these three seasons then?

Lillard: I think I’ve gotten better. My whole career has been all about just making improvements each year and so far I’ve been able to do that.

Q: How important has LaMarcus Aldridge delaying surgery and Robin Lopez coming back from injury been to the Trail Blazers’ Playoffs run this season?

Lillard: It’s been huge, those are our two starting big men. LA’s our best player, his sacrifice for the sake of this team was huge and extremely selfless and I think RoLo is what puts our team together. On both ends of the floor, he’s a huge
part of what we do. He’s a little bit unappreciated but I really appreciate what he does for our team so having those two dudes out there is giving us a lot of life.

Q: One aspect of your game that seems to have really improved has been your rebounding. Is that something that you’ve been consciously working on or is that just something that has come naturally as you’ve grown in the NBA?

Lillard: Our team is one of the better defensive rebounding teams this year, and a lot of that is because our guards have put emphasis on coming back and helping out rebounding. A lot of times when teams give up offensive rebounds it’s because the big is helping, protecting the rim and then the ball is coming off, and the guards and the other bigs are coming back and getting it. We emphasize coming back and helping out rebounding and we’ve just done a good job of it.

Q: What do you think of Nicolas Batum and how would you describe your relationship on and off the court with him?

Lillard: Nico is one of my most favourite teammate. Really selfless, does all the things that our team needs from him. He can score if that’s what we need, he’s always rebounding, making plays and defending. He’s a big part of our team. Off the court he is a quiet guy, but he’s a really good dude. He’s one of those teammates that you like to have around. One of those guys that you appreciate as a teammate and as a person.

Q: You’ve become the face of Adidas in the NBA these days and recently you launched your own sneaker line. Can you tell us what that means to have your own sneaker line and how you can express yourself through those shoes? Also how important was it for you to have it at the low price point it’s at to make it more accessible?

Lillard: It means a lot. Having your own shoes, not a lot of guys get that opportunity. So I am honoured and blessed for that to even happen. The price point was something that was huge for me. I played in the Crazy Light Boost which is a great shoe but if I were to install that in my shoe it would have made it more expensive, and I wanted it to be more accessible for everyone. By doing that, by not having the boost, it was a cheaper shoe and I was just happy that I can make it more accessible for people.

For more on the billiard 1, visit adidasbasketball.com

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