CHICAGO – When Ivan Rabb was in his youth, his family moved to a new neighborhood in Oakland. As it turns out, living in the house directly across the street was a kid named Damian Lillard.
“I’ve been knowing him for a time,’’ Rabb said of the Trail Blazers’ star. “And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten to know him a little more.’’
Rabb hopes that connection deepens next month by becoming Lillard’s teammate. Rabb, a 6-foot-10 power forward from Cal, could be on the radar of a Blazers’ team that is looking for depth at power forward and has three first round picks (15, 20, 26) in the June 22 NBA draft.
The Blazers, who are tentatively scheduled to start draft workouts around June 7, have yet to book Rabb for a trip to Portland according to agent Aaron Goodwin. But according to one source, it is likely Rabb will be on the Blazers’ workout schedule after agents finalize their clients’ travel agendas following Tuesday’s draft lottery.
One thing is certain: whichever teams Rabb works out for, they will likely see a hard worker.
Rabb said he is being trained by Chris Farr and Anthony Eggleton, the same coaches who put Lillard through his grueling predraft workouts before he was drafted sixth overall in 2012. Those workouts spawned the four-part YouTube mini-series “License to Lillard.”
“The main thing is his work ethic,’’ Rabb said of Lillard. “Coach Farr always talks about how hard he worked and (Coach Eggleton) talked about how he was focused and dedicated to everything they told him to do. So that’s something I’m trying to emulate. Why not? He’s doing great things and I want to be on his level one day.’’
Rabb feels his own level has elevated in the past year, when he elected to forego what many projected to be a lottery selection and instead stay at Cal for his sophomore season.
“I thought I needed it,’’ Rabb said. “I thought it was very mature for me to go back. The plan is to stick in the league for a long time, not get there as soon as possible, so I feel like I made the best decision for me. I feel like I got better.’’
After averaging 12.5 points and 8.6 rebounds as a freshman, Rabb this season averaged 14 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks while shooting 48 percent from the field.
While Rabb might have questions about the transition to the NBA regarding his experience or his his outside shot, he said he has no reservations about his top skill: Rebounding.
“I know at this point right now, what can translate is rebounding the ball,’’ Rabb said. “I know I can hit offensive glass really well … everybody has to have their niche coming into the league and rebounding is something I can hang my hat on. Coaches know if I’m coming into the game, I’m going for rebounds.’’
He said some of his offensive game was thwarted at Cal because he was often double-teamed in the post, and the right play was to pass to the open teammate. Sometimes, that meant the only way he could score was to attack rebounds.
“I just know I want the ball. Sometimes I wasn’t getting the ball inside so I was like, ‘Let me go find a way to score the ball’ … and I would go grab it,’’ Rabb said.
Since the season has ended, Rabb said he has been encouraged by his offensive growth. He says the range on his shot is expanding.
“I feel like I own everything inside the 3-point line and I’m shooting corner 3s really well,’’ said Rabb, who went 8-for-20 from the college three-point line last season.
Rabb said he doesn’t want to project himself as a three-point shooter yet, but it’s something he is working on.
“I feel like I’m on right track, but I’m not in a rush to get out there (and shoot threes) if it’s not my game,’’ he said. “I’m trying to master what I have first, and then build off that.’’
While Rabb says his game is becoming more polished by the day, one thing hasn’t changed: his confidence, which he says is rooted in his Oakland upbringing.
“I’m confident when I’m on the floor,’’ he said. “I feel like I carry myself differently. I don’t get rattled. I play with a chip on my shoulder and don’t let anybody punk me.’’
He says he molds himself after four players – Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett – but he knows if he comes to Portland, there will be another guy who will go a long ways in shaping him.
It’s the same kid who lived across the street when he was in middle school: Lillard.
“I feel like him being there, he will push me to make sure I succeed,’’ Rabb said. “He would be a great mentor to have.’’