Lillard going for 5 in New Orleans, out to prove he's a dunker: "Eight dunks means my legs are fresh"

Lillard going for 5 in New Orleans, out to prove he's a dunker: "Eight dunks means my legs are fresh"
February 6, 2014, 4:30 pm
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Lillard feeling pressure to win events?

INDIANAPOLIS -- It’s official. Damian Lillard is going to be a very busy man during All-Star Weekend and he’ll make history in the process.

The NBA confirmed CSNNW.com's report that Lillard will indeed participate in the Skills Challenge, the Rising Stars game, compete in the Three-Point and Slam Dunk contest as well as play in the All-Star game in New Orleans between Feb. 14-16.

No player has ever participated in all five events in the same weekend.

[RELATED: How it came to be]

“I figured why not do it?” Lillard said. “Nobody has ever done it and I’m capable of competing in all of them. I’m excited about doing it…Obviously it’s an opportunity for me to put my name on All-Star Weekend to be the first person to do something like that. Especially on that Saturday night, because that’s a big part of it…Just the fact that I can be all over that, that was a big thing for me.”

The reining Rookie Of the Year dismisses the notion that he’ll get burned out from his numerous athletic activities. He says the events aren’t rigorous enough to wear him down.

“In reality, it’s probably 45 minutes of work actually on the court.” he said. “And I really don’t think I’ll be tired from that.”

[RELATED: Fred Jones on Lillard in Dunk Contest]

Out of all five events, Lillard says the Three-Point Contest is the one he’s really looking forward to. But he warns not to sleep on his leaping ability. It has been overly pointed out that Lillard has only dunked the ball eight times this season.

When approached with that stat, he replied, “Eight dunks means my legs are fresh.”

He’s not sure if he’ll use teammates as props or assisting with all-oop passes, but he does suggest you’ll be highly surprised by what he has in store.

“I got some ideas,” Lillard told reporters. “Just from what I’ve seen, I know I can dunk and do a lot more dunks than people probably think I can. So it’s going to be fun to have that on my side.”

Washington's John Wall, Indiana's Paul George, Golden State's Harrison Barnes, Sacramento's Ben McLemore and the defending Slam Dunk champ Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors will be his competition in the dunk-off. Minnesota's Kevin Love, Golden State's Stephen Curry, San Antonio's Marco Belinelli along with Lillard rounds out the Western Conference three-point participants. Orlando's Arron Afflalo, Washington's Bradley Beal, Cleveland's Kyrie Irving and Brooklyn's Joe Johnson concludes the players for the Eastern Conference.

The extra exorbitant amount of exposure Lillard will receive in New Orleans on a national platform is a plus for him and the Trail Blazers. Not only is he becoming the face of the franchise, but he also is being promoted as one of the bright young faces of the league.

It’s an opportunity for him to increase his brand. It’s an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

[RELATED: Lillard on being the first to do all five events]

“It’ll probably open more eyes up to who I am,” Lillard explained. “A lot of people that don’t get to watch us play in the east coast, don’t know who I am if you’re not a real basketball fan. Being part of that, everybody watches All-Star Weekend.

“So, they’re going to see Damian Lillard in the Three-Point Contest, Damian Lillard doing the skills, dunking and in the All-Star game. It’s kind of like I’m expanding as a brand and opening more eyes to who I am. Also for the Trail Blazers, it’ will always come back to my team.”

The most important thing to remember is that this should be a joyous experience for him. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. And that’s exactly the way he’s looking at it.

“It’s all fun,” he said. “You go out there to try to win them but you don’t put pressure on yourself to try to win them because others guys are capable too…It’s no pressure. I’m just going to go out there and have fun.”

Press Release:

PORTLAND, Ore. (Feb. 6, 2014) – Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard will become the first player in NBA history to participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest at State Farm All-Star Saturday Night, it was announced today by the league.

The Skills Challenge will be Lillard's first event of the night, followed by the Three-Point Contest and the Slam Dunk Contest.

“I'm excited to represent the Trail Blazers in the Rising Stars Challenge and my first NBA All-Star Game," said Lillard. “It's also an honor to be the first player to participate in three events at All-Star Saturday Night.”

Lillard will defend his Skills Challenge title from last year in Houston, where he posted a time of 28.9 seconds in the final to take home the crown. The event challenges the NBA’s top guards to work against the clock in a series of passes, free throws, layups and agility drills.

All-Star Saturday Night will tip-off at 5:30 p.m. (Pacific) on TNT, live from New Orleans Arena.

No Trail Blazer has ever won the Three-Point or Slam Dunk Contest. Previous Trail Blazers who've competed in the Three-Point Contest include Kiki Vandeweghe(1987), Clyde Drexler (1991), Terry Porter (1991, 1993) and Cliff Robinson (1996).

Lillard will join Drexler (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989), Jerome Kersey (1986, 1987, 1988, 1989), James Robinson (1994) and Rudy Fernandez (2009) as Trail Blazers who have participated in the Slam Dunk Contest over the years.

Last season’s unanimous NBA Rookie of the Year, Lillard, 23, is averaging 20.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists to go with a 40.5% (140-for-346) mark from 3-point range. He leads all sophomores in scoring and assists, while ranking third in the NBA in 3-pointers made and 14th in scoring.