Gary Payton on Portland’s Damian Lillard, “He’s Dealing with What I Dealt with in Seattle”


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Former Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard posted career highs across the board last season, as he averaged 25.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 44.4 percent from the field, 36.9 from behind the arc, and 91.2 from the free-throw line.

The career highs can be credited to the work that Dame and his trainer Phil Beckner put in last summer. After getting bounced in the first round of the Western Conference Finals by the New Orleans Pelicans in 2018.

According to Yahoo Sports, Beckner suggested that Lillard extend his range 30 feet until he felt comfortable from that distance. The usual range of 22-23.75 feet is the measurements of the NBA three-point arc. However, if Lillard could come comfortably from 30 feet would allow him to stretch the floor like 2-time MVP Stephen Curry does for the Warriors.

“Guys like Steph, you have to worry about guarding when they take one step over the half-court line,” Beckner said. “When you do that, it’s another weapon that makes everything else easier. It opens up everything spacing- and pick-and-roll-wise.”

“Extending his range was the biggest thing we worked on all off-season, and throughout the season,” Beckner said. “The amount he works at it is almost sickening. He’s a lunatic.”

So, why doesn’t Lillard get mentioned like some of his peers regularly?

Over the weekend, Hall of Famer Gary Payton shed some light on why Lillard why he has been overlooked.

“He is in a market that is not high like the Lakers and Boston. I think if he were in that type of market, he would be more recognizable and they don’t respect him. I got that same situation when I was in Seattle about the All-Star games, but now they are starting to pick him. He is showing what he can do. He is an Oakland guy and is a dude that has a lot of toughness in him, and he is showing it. He made first-team last year, second team this year, and he is going to keep doing it. He’s got that swagger and that dog in him, but he is going to keep going at people. So, I don’t think anything is underrated. I think he is in a bad market.”

Earlier this year, former Blazer Bonzi Wells told me by phone both C.J McCollum were killers on the court.

“Them two boys are killers. I love C.J.’s game because he complements Dame’s game. It is like Yin and Yang, and they complement each other’s game very well. CJ is very smooth, and a great shooter and has a deceptive handled, that people don’t really understand. He gets to his spot well, and that is just his game. It’s awesome and when you think about a guy like Dame. What he is doing in the playoffs is unheard of especially in a Blazers’ uniform,“ said Wells.

Damian Lillard raised his stock during the playoffs this past season after hitting an icon shot over All-World defender Paul George, and waved the Thunder off the court and ending the Russell Westbrook and Paul George era in Oklahoma City. Both would ask for separate trades with one heading to the Rockets and the other heading to the Clippers. Lillard would sign a supermax deal worth $196 million over the next four season to stay with the Blazers.



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Written by Landon Buford

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