LOS ANGELES – Damian Lillard just scored with a second remaining and DeMar DeRozan can’t believe it. He tries retrieving the inbounds pass and getting a shot off, but it’s too late. Lillard capped off a ferocious comeback, and he’s got a huge smile on his face. Up nine at one point, DeRozan is still in shock at the collapse.
Over All-Star weekend, DeRozan and Lillard took a break from the craziness of obligations, media availabilities, and appearances (as well as generally having to be in too many places in too tight a window while schedulers forgot to compensate for traffic) to play a game of NBA 2K. While the pair had a considerably harder scoring in the game than they do in real life, the two professional bucket getters eventually found their rhythm – as they always do – while young fans barked questions at them (“what should your 2K rating be?”) and offered advice (“you should run the pick and roll with Nurkic!”).
The weekend is a mixed bag for both Lillard and DeRozan. On Saturday, the two look tired. It’s clear they’re thankful for the opportunity to be in California (Lillard’s an Oakland native; DeRozan’s from Compton, and if anyone dares to say Los Angeles, he will correct them), but it can be a grind for any All-Star once the novelty of making the game wears off.
This is as first-world problem as it gets, obviously, and they’d readily acknowledge that. But imagine the craziness of Super Bowl week packed into three days, add Kevin Hart and Shaq to almost every moment, and throw the insanity that is LA in the mix for good measure, and a little empathy goes a long way.
While DeRozan and Lillard play more than 2,600 miles away from each other, they have a lot in common with how they approach the game and in their respective situations. Both have readily embraced a city far different from their upbringing and have become the face of franchises fighting for respectability among the power teams in the NBA. They both have found trust and a yang to their yin in running mates (Kyle Lowry and CJ McCollum) who also happen to be dynamic scorers. And they’ve given back to their community while staying open and honest, opting to speak their minds frequently rather than play to clichés or tropes.
During a short sitdown interview in the green room at the Spalding Backcourt activation, DeRozan and Lillard offered their thoughts on trust, caping for their NBA home, and how important a consistent basketball is for shooters.