Damian Lillard is not a lot of things. He was not highly recruited out of high school and he was not a major college player. He’s not a 2014 FIBA World Cup winner, cialis or a 2016 NBA All Star. He’s not a member of Nike’s elite, order and he’s not Steph Curry or Kobe Bryant. So how is it possible that Damian Lillard is the talk of the NBA in early March, post trade deadline and headed into crunch time before the playoffs?
Because Portland. You might see a woman walking her turtle on a leash down Pearl St. and you might catch an angry Damian Lillard dropping 51 on Golden State. Where zip off cargo pants and gluten free bread reign supreme, and a carpet can be the grand marshal of a parade, the Blazers are overcoming meager expectations and audacious snubs to do their part to keep things weird in the NBA. I guess we shouldn’t even be that surprised.
So how did we get here? The Blazers weren’t supposed to be good. Lillard struggled down the stretch last season only to watch LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicholas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez leave in free agency and trades. On draft night, the Blazers were poised to be absent of any big men this season and due to pay Lillard max money over the summer without the feeling that he had certain future All-Star potential.
But 2016 hasn’t gone as planned, in a good way. A rebuild turned resurgence when Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh headed West in the Nicholas Batum trade bolstering the Blazer bench. CJ McCollum has emerged as the NBA’s most improved player, Meyers Leonard plays with confidence behind the arc, and angry Damian Lillard has come to define clutch in a very raw Steph Curry kind of way, averaging 30 and 8 in the month of February. Instead of 30 wins and a front row seat at the Draft Lottery in June, the youthful, “long term potential” Blazers have 33 wins with 6 weeks left in the season, a firm grip on a playoff spot and a very heavy bandwagon.
And I totally get it. I might even join it. Next season when the Bulls streak of giving up 100 points has hit 50, you might see me in PDX Carpet Adidas, covering my compost pile, and pretending to know why they call it #RipCity. Regardless, it’s fair to say that things are staying weird in Portland for a while, and I’m not mad about it.