Lillard: We've been able to get it done
“It wasn’t intentional. We were playing and we bumped each other. It’s unfortunate that it has carried on for this long. It wasn’t intentional."
TORONTO – It has been a little over a year.
He wish he had asked for the ball somewhere else on the court. He was just doing what he’s been taught to do as a point guard for so many years now.
When your bigs grab the rebound, you run towards them and ask for the ball to get the team into the offense. That was the scenario on opening night of the 2012-13 season for then rookie Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Their opponents that night were the new-look rival Los Angeles Lakers, a team that featured superstars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
In the first quarter of that game, LaMarcus Aldridge pulled down a defensive rebound and looked to pass the ball to his point guard Lillard who was cutting across.
Nash, attached closely to Lillard’s right hip, attempted to intercept the passing angle. As Lillard continued his running stride, his right knee bumped dead-smack into Nash’s left leg.
The future Hall-of Famer was in excruciation pain, hobbling on one leg. He would later learn that he suffered a non-displaced fracture to his leg, forcing him to miss seven weeks of action.
It didn’t stop there. The injury has lingered on into this season as Nash continues to experience some nerve root irritation in the leg, sidelining him for approximately two weeks. It was one fluke play. An accident, but the reigning Rookie of the Year is still extremely apologetic.
“I wish it didn’t happen,” Lillard told CSNNW.com. “It wasn’t intentional. We were playing and we bumped each other. It’s unfortunate that it has carried on for this long. It wasn’t intentional. When we play this game, we sacrifice our bodies a lot and that just happened to happen in the course of that game. I’m just sorry for the whole incident.”
There’s really no need for Lillard to apologize. It was a hard-fought basketball game. If anything, it speaks to the type of individual he is.
The Trail Blazers are currently in Canada where they’ll take on the Toronto Raptors Sunday morning. This is where Nash is from. It’s where his young beginnings of becoming a top-notch athlete began.
Now there’s talk going around that this could be the end. The 39-year old, two-time MVP hasn’t had a fair shake in Los Angeles. If this is indeed the end, it’ll be tough on Lillard. He doesn’t want to be the reason Nash elected to step away from the game.
“I saw on TV the other day that someone said something like, ‘Nash’s decline goes back to when him and Damian Lillard bumped knees,’” Lillard recalled. “Man, I wish that wasn’t me that bumped into him. It’s unfortunate, but I didn’t mean to do it. I even reached out to him to tell him that I didn’t mean to do it last year. He’s had a great career, though. Hopefully he’ll be able to get healthy soon.”
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts doesn’t think we’ve seen the last of Nash. For a guy that’s not the tallest, fattest or most athletic player in any NBA locker room, Nash sure knows how to take a licking and keep on ticking.
He revolutionized the game. His presence was always felt. Will he ever get to that point again? Only time will tell.
“It’s amazing how he and Mike D’Antonio in Phoenix had an huge impact on the game of basketball,” Stotts said. “They changed how the game was played at the offensive end. It made a big impact on the NBA. Obviously being the MVP twice, being the consummate playmaker in that he made his teammates better. Every once in a while players come along that have a huge impact in not only the time that they’re playing, but how the game is played.”
Stotts says Meyers Leonard (gastroenteritis), who has missed the last two games, is feeling much better but adds that the 7-1 center is still weak. Leonard is flying to New York on Sunday to be with the team in time for Monday's game against the Brooklyn Nets.