Damian Lillard is re-energizing Blazers
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
The billboard that once featured a smiling Greg Oden and Brandon Roy across the street from the Rose Garden is gone, replaced by an ad for a local country music station that sits next to the train tracks that cut through the heart of downtown Portland, Ore.
And isn’t that just about right?
The former Portland Trail Blazers pillars whose careers have been decimated by knee injuries are more than worthy of a sad song – the hoops version of dogs dying and wives leaving and such. Their stories may as well have unfolded with violin accompaniment in the background, the seemingly-endless ailments to the most pivotal of Blazers pillars and others sending a fanbase’s championship dreams to the bottom of the nearby Willamette River.
They have a new poster boy, though. And hope is floating again.
Rookie point guard Damian Lillard is re-energizing the City of Roses this season, his poise and prowess making him an instant favorite among one of the league’s most loyal fans. His path from being an overlooked prospect in Oakland, Calif. to mid-major Weber State to NBA prominence already is leading him to the league’s record books. Through 10 games, Lillard – who was taken sixth overall by the Blazers in the June draft – has joined the NBA Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only rookies to have averaged at least 19 points and six assists per game to this point in their debut seasons.
He’s speeding up what was supposed to be a slow learning curve and is threatening to turn the Blazers into a contender in what was expected to be a rebuilding year. Lillard was supposed to be getting acquainted with franchise centerpiece forward LaMarcus Aldridge, small forward Nicolas Batum and the rest of the Blazers. Instead, Portland is 6-5 with their Rookie of the Year frontrunner running the show heading into tonight’s game at Phoenix. Lillard – who wasn’t heavily recruited in high school, in part, because he played on the less-prominent AAU team in town but who went on to become the … [For more on Damian Lillard is re-energizing Portland Trail Blazers, click here.]