Newly-minted All-Star Damian Lillard on what fuels him, talks busy All-Star weekend

Newly-minted All-Star Damian Lillard on what fuels him, talks busy All-Star weekend
January 31, 2014, 9:00 am
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LA & Lillard on All-Star selection

TUALATIN -- I told you so. That’s probably what Damian Lillard was saying inside of his head after he was selected to be an NBA Western Conference All-Star reserve on Thursday.

The Portland Trail Blazers’ standout point guard gets a kick out of proving his critics wrong. In fact, he gets more than a kick. He absolutely loves the thrilling victory of shutting detractors up.

“When people doubt what I say, it’s another opportunity for me to prove somebody wrong,” Lillard told CSNNW.com. “That’s wood on the fire. I come from an underdog situation so it’s natural for me when people say, ‘Oh, he thinks because he won Rookie of the Year that he’s going to have a great career.’ In my head, they don’t think I can do it and I’m going to do everything in my power to prove them wrong.”

Before he was even taken at No. 6 in the 2012 NBA Draft, he proclaimed that he would win the Rookie of the Year award. Prior to the 2013-14 season getting underway, he made it known that his goal was to be named an NBA All-Star.

So far, check and check.

“I know people said I was crazy if I thought I was going to make the All-Star team,” he said.  “But in my head, I felt like if my team was winning and I’m the point guard on the team and I’m playing well, I’m going to have a chance. That’s exactly what happened.”

Lillard says he doesn’t go out of his way searching for those who harshly critique him. He reveals that for the most part, he consumes what’s being said about him from TNT’s fearsome foursome of Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson as well as the media members he follows on Twitter.

“Like how I follow you on Twitter and I see you put something up there,” he enlightened. “I’ll read the first couple lines you say like ‘Damian Lillard is in a shooting slump or Damian Lillard might not do this.’ If I see stuff like that, I won’t even click on it half the time because I’ll know what you’re getting at. Stuff like that fuels me.”

Portland’s franchise player will be quite busy come All-Star Weekend. He says he expects to defend his Skills Challenge title, he’s a headliner in the Rising Stars Challenge game and the grandest of them all: he’ll be coming off the bench for the West in the All-Star game.

If you think that’s too much, CSNNW.com has received word via a league source that Lillard is considering participating in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, though Lillard refuses to comment on it. The Wizards’ John Wall is mulling over the dunk competition, too.

The reigning Rookie of the Year hasn’t missed a single game throughout his NBA career. He averaged 38.6 minutes per game last season and this season he’s at 36.0. There will obviously be concerns that he’ll tire out in New Orleans while most of the league will utilize the time to allow their bodies time to recuperate. He acknowledged that he has a busy schedule ahead of him but downplays the actual workload on the court.

“It’s not like I’m going out there playing in a real, regular season game,” Lillard explained. “I’ll play some minutes in the Rising Stars, which is not a game where people play hard. I’ll do the Skills Challenge, where I’ll be on the court for maybe two minutes, total. And the All-Star game, I’m probably not going to play a bunch of minutes. I think the off the court stuff will be more overwhelming than the on the court stuff.”

Out of all the hoopla that surrounds All-Star Weekend, there’s just one event Lillard is exceedingly looking forward to.

“The All-Star game,” he answered. “Playing in the game. That’s when all the celebrities come out. That’s where everybody is. I’m excited to be part of that.”