Lillard Talks Winning Skills Competition
HOUSTON – Damian Lillard continues to make the Portland Trail Blazers faithful proud.
Tonight, the three-time NBA Rookie of the Month took home the NBA Skills Challenge title by defeating Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday in the final round.
Hours before the competition began, Lillard and the other participants were nervously on the court trying out the course in hopes of establishing a rhythm and timing.
“When we first got to the arena, I was worried about it because I hadn't seen the course,” Lillard said. “Once we got out there and they let us practice some of the stuff, I threw the bounce pass about 50 times and then I got confident because I was comfortable with how the pass was and thought I could get through it pretty quickly. And after that, that was pretty much it.”
Holiday and Lillard advanced to the final round with a time of 29.3 and 28.8 seconds respectively.
The 76ers guard went first and had a couple of mishaps that started with a failed bounce pass into the tire coupled with few missed jumpers that cost him dearly. He finished with a time of 35.6 seconds.
“Really after I missed that first pass, I thought it was good, but I felt like I had to rush a little bit and make up time,” Holiday said. “I probably should have took my time even on the jump-shots.”
Following Holiday's 35-second performance, Lillard knew right there, the title was his. He finished with a time of 29.8 seconds making him this year's NBA Skills champion.
“I knew I was going to win after that (35-second outing from Holiday) because the first time I went through it, I didn't sprint through the crossovers,” Lillard said. “So I knew if I made that layup and got out as fast as I could, that'll be about 10 seconds when I was going into that first chest pass.
“Once I saw him get a 35, I felt good about it.”
Holiday knew Lillard had it won, too.
“I thought he had a good chance of winning after that,” Holiday said. “35 seconds is a long time. Again, knowing how skilled he is and what he's done this year, I felt like he probably had it in the bag.”
The Trail Blazers rookie can now get some much-needed rest and relaxation. The season he's had thus far has been amazing and he has exceeded every expectation anyone has placed on him.
That's why it's important he relaxes to come back fresh for the second half of the season. The moment is never to big for him and when he accomplishes certain feats, he rarely shows emotions.
But tonight, he admitted this was something to remember.
“It's special for me,” Lillard said. “Just because not only does a competition like this show your ability fundamentals in that area, just being a fan of it as a kid, you love All-Star Weekend for the dunk contest, and three-point contest. The Skills Competition wasn't around all the time. Just being a part of it is a blessing by itself, but to be able to win the competition at this stage means a lot.”