Chris Haynes One on One with Damian Lillard: Laying Out Framework For Recruiting Players
TUALATIN – Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has done just about all you could ask of him in his first NBA season.
This rookie phenom is your 2013 NBA Skills champion, he recently received the NBA Kia Community Assists award, he's on pace to lockup every Western Conference Rookie of the Month award and it is all but official that he'll be your 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year.
What more can the kid do?
Well, in the offseason, he'll turn his attention to the recruiting circuit in hopes of convincing free agents to why Portland is a prime destination to move to.
“It depends on what our team is going to need, but if I like a player that is on the market and I know he has interest, of course I'm going to reach out to them,” Lillard said. “I'm going to do what I can to help the team get better.”
Trail Blazers two-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge has already said he will be sending text messages to certain free agents he believes would make sense for the organization.
In years past, it hasn't been an easy task convincing high-level talent to relocate to the Pacific Northwest. But with the lethal combination of Aldridge, Lillard, a creative offensive mind in Head Coach Terry Stotts, the proven track record of Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey and $11.9 - $13.1 million in cap space, could equal a winning formula for persuasion.
“I just think Portland is a great place, Lillard said. “The people here are great. If they want to play in a city where they know the crowd is going to be there whether you're having a bad season or good season, losing streak or winning streak, our fans give you something to play for.
“They are there every game supporting us and it's inspiring when you are out there on the floor. When the game seems out of reach, they're constantly cheering. People aren't getting up leaving their seats and it's like that every single game.”
Big time cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York have the nightlife experience that most young players gravitate towards. It also helps that those teams are currently winning.
There are pros and cons to working in a city with an eventful nightlife. Lillard discusses the cons.
“As a professional, you shouldn't want to go to a city where there is a lot of distractions and places where you can get into some trouble,” Lillard said. “For me, I think this is the perfect place. I go out to movies, dinner, but I am able to take care of my business and focus. That's what I'm here for.”
And that's why you shouldn't expect Lillard to bolt as soon as his rookie deal is up. He's not a fan of moving all over the place. He had the opportunity to transfer to a bigger college once his name blew up at Weber State but he didn't.
He said he chose not to because he was at a school that believed in him from the jump and he wanted to grow and develop with the guys he came in with.
Similar to his current team.
“I like what we have here,” he said. “I think we have a lot of good players now, and all of our good players now are young. It would be great for us to build what we have here. Since we're all together now and young, I think we have a bright future together.
“I'm happy with this. I like this city. I like the love that the fans show me. I come from a loyal family so as long as this organization is going to be loyal to me, I'm going to be loyal to them and do what I can to help us grow and bring talent here.”