Detractors of the NBA point to a lack of rivalries and friendly relationships between opposing players as reason why today’s game pales in comparison to that of the past’s. The latter point is especially justifiable; the question is whether or not that it matter. For those that appreciate the camaraderie of modern players, congregations like USA Basketball training camp is quotable gold. Paul George is the latest national team member to bestow praise on another, telling TrailBlazers.com that he’s “a big fan” of fellow All-Star Damian Lillard.
Asked by Trail Blazers TV for his thoughts on Lillard, George offers effusive adulation of his Team USA teammate. And according to George, Lillard hasn’t lost the aggression and sense of the moment in his brief time with the national team that makes him so effective for Portland.
I’m a big fan of Damian. Damian is a big-time player in this league. He’s one of those guys that wants the ball in hands in the last seconds, and he’s just poised way beyond his years. And he’s been doing an amazing job here at camp. He’s been aggressive. He’s really brought his playing style [here], which is what [makes] him special. And that’s the biggest thing – when guys don’t lose what makes them special and they bring it into this camp. It really elevates the practices, elevates the team, and also elevates that individual’s game, and that’s been the case for Dame.
Asked if Lillard’s cool under pressure is a good quality to have on international stage, George got technical to shed light on one of the traits that makes the Trail Blazers’ guard great.
That’s what you want in your point guard. I think that’s the biggest characteristic a point guard can have – is not getting too rattled, not getting too sped up. Point guards have to learn to play at their own pace, and Damian is the prime example of doing that.
“Pace” has been a hoops buzzword since the mid-2000s when Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash played “Seven Seconds Or Less” with the Phoenix Suns to light scoreboards ablaze. Erik Spoelstra, LeBron James, and the Miami Heat took a more nuanced approach to tempo in their run to four consecutive NBA Finals, stressing “pace and space.”
But there’s one crucial misconception about pace and its place in basketball: It doesn’t always mean “faster.” The league’s effective floor generals all boast an enviable combination of skill and athleticism, but it’s those that pair that amalgam with rare knack and savvy that are the world’s best. Changing speeds and directions seemingly at random is what makes a great penetrator and ballhandler, and Lillard was born with such ingenuity.