ChrisHaynes, CSNNW.com Trail Blazers Insider (@ChrisBHaynes)The2012 NBA Draft came and went and the Portland Trail Blazers areconsidered by many to have had the best Draft day out of all theother 29 NBA teams.
Oneprimary justification for such high praise was the selection ofDamian Lillard, a 6-3 point guard taken out of Weber State at No. 6.The Trail Blazers general manager, Neil Olshey, even went as far asto say that they feel like they drafted their franchise player.
Whenyou think of franchise point guards to come out in recent memory,Derrick Rose is one, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, andthe list goes on.
Lillard,21, says he's fine with those lofty expectations being placed his way and says it's humbling at the same time.
It'sa privilege to be viewed that way. It's a lot of responsibility, butI accept it, Lillard tells CSNNW.com. They're not going to givethat title to anybody. This is what I've worked for. I gotta keepworking hard and continue to get better everyday. I know I got that(franchise) type of potential.
Itwas noted by CSNNW.com's own Dwight Jaynes, that Lillard's personalworkout he had with the Trail Blazers on June 15, was something tobehold, reminiscent of Kevin Durant's workout in 2007.
ChadBuchanan, the Trail Blazers director of college scouting, simply saidthe kid couldn't miss.
Lillardremembers that legendary workout vividly and talks about what he wasable to accomplish on that day.
Ithink I showed a couple of things: I think I surprised them with myathleticism, I showed my ability to pass the ball well inpick-and-roll situations, my speed, the ability to make shots whentired, and I went hard the entire way. I was tired during thatworkout, but I persevered and knocked down my shots, Lillard said.
Youmight be thinking he just had one great day. Everyone has those typeof days where you're just feeling it. However, Lillard says he had asimilar workout the day before in Sacramento, as well.
Myworkout with the Kings was similar I think, Lillard said. Iworked out for the Kings and then the Blazers on back-to-back days. Iwas just in one of those rhythms during that time where I felt goodand I couldn't miss.
Impressedby what he was witnessing, Trail Blazers owner, Paul Allen, tookLillard out for dinner to get to know the kid and to pick is brain.
Thatmeal was the most important meal of Lillard's life.
Ithink Mr. Allen is a good guy. He's quiet, but he got straight to thepoint asking me questions like what I would do in certainsituations, Lillard said. I think I answered his questionshonestly and promptly and I think he liked what he heard. Hisknowledge of the game surprised me and it'll be great playing for anowner like that.
TheTrail Blazers now currently have two points guards on the roster inLillard and Nolan Smith and If you know Smith, he's as competitive asit gets.
That'swhy Lillard isn't expecting anything but a battle.
I'vewatched him (Smith) play at Duke and I met him when I worked out forthe Blazers and he was cool, Lillard said. I don't expect himto come in and just lay down. He's going to try to earn his minutes.We're going to be teammates and we're going to go at one another andthat's the way it's supposed to be.
Anotheraspect that makes this LillardPortland relationship a perfect matchis that his best friend, P.J. Taylor, resides in Portland.
Taylorand Lillard first met in the first grade in their hometown ofOakland, Calif., and have been close friends ever since. They playedbasketball together from elementary, to AAU, to high school ball.Taylor went on to play college basketball at Lewis & Clark andwas also one of Lillard's guest at the NBA Draft.
Igrew up with P.J. and he's someone who I consider a friend for lifeand it makes it that much special that I ended up in Portland,Lillard said. I'll definitely have season tickets for my boy.
Allis hunky-dory now, but what ultimately will decide if Lillard istruly a franchise player is his play on the court. The city ofPortland is used to having celebratory introductory pressers only tocap it off with disappointing endings ala Greg Oden.
Lillardcan't control what has happened in the past and to tell you thetruth, he's not worried about the past. He knows this roster is inits rebuilding stages and he wants the Blazer fans to know that hecan handle it.
Iwant everyone in Portland to know that when things are going bad, Iwill remain calm and search for solutions to gets us out of certainpredicaments, Lillard said. That's what a point guard does andthat's what leaders do.
He'llsurely be the leader on the court, but the leader on the sideline forthe Trail Blazers is up in the air. However if this means anything,Lillard was impressed with the drills interim head coach KalebCanales put him through and says it'll be cool to have him as acoach.
Ilike the stuff he did with me, Lillard said. 'He's a younger guyand if he got the job, I think it would be good because we could growand learn together.
Everyoneis excited to see Lillard in action and the kid seems to have thetotal package when it comes to his game, mentality, and character.The Trail Blazers look like they're sitting pretty with thisselection and I personally congratulate them for getting this right.