No player in the league uses disappointment as fuel more effectively than Damian Lillard. And after not being selected by the league’s coaches as a Western Conference All-Star, it’s safe to say we know at whom his coming wrath will be directed. Lillard told reporters he is “pissed off” and “feel[s] disrespected” by the snub, which he’ll simply use as more motivation for continuing to improve.
Q: What was your initial reaction?
Lillard: “I was surprised. I said it before: I thought I did all I could do individually. I thought my team has been successful. It wasn’t something I could control. Everything that I could control to give myself my best shot, I did. It played out how it played out.”
Q: Will you use this as motivation?
Lillard: “I’m definitely going to take it personal. I said I’d be pissed off about it. And I am. I just felt disrespected… For me to be having the type of season that I’m having, which is better than any one that I’ve had before, and my team to be third in the Western Conference, I just see it as disrespect.”
Q: There’s still a chance you will get in, replacing the injured Kobe Bryant. Does that still give you hope?
Lillard: “At this point, like I said, I feel really disrespected. I know that there’s still somebody that has to replace Kobe and I’ll happily take that invite if it was to come my way. But at the same time, it’s not how I wanted to see it happen…”
Q: You always talk about “wood on the fire.” Is this just more of that?
Lillard: “Definitely. Definitely.”
It’s easy to understand Lillard’s frustration. He’s taken a leap to elite this season that few saw coming, making major strides as a defender and finisher at the rim while continuing to hone the aspects of his game that made him an All-Star in 2014. In our estimation, he’s the 32-14 Blazers’ best player – that distinction should be enough for a reserve nod in a vacuum.
But this Western Conference is perhaps the strongest we’ve ever seen, and its All-Star roster reflects that likelihood. Who should have been left off the team instead of Lillard? There’s no easy choice available, and every argument against a certain player can be easily countered with a take in their favor. The West is overflowing with upper-echelon performers, especially at guard.
Lillard’s “snub” is indicative of nothing more than that – simply an unfortunate and inevitable consequence of an unbalanced league.
Having said that, he should absolutely use it as motivation. Lillard has made a starring career out of slights by basketball overlords: the recruiting analysts who listed him as a middling prospect; the big name college coaches who didn’t offer him a scholarship; the GMs who overlooked his stellar career at Weber State; and so on.
And considering his awesome play this season after being cut from Team USA in August and promising to “throw more wood on the fire,” Lillard will prove even better over its second half than he was in its first. And by then, no one will remember that he wasn’t selected an All-Star – except for Dame himself.
What do you think?
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