Amid questions astir his future, Portland Trail Blazers prima defender Damian Lillard is spending the archetypal portion of the summertime with the U.S. Olympic squad successful Las Vegas.
The nationalist squad has mislaid 2 of 3 accumulation games astatine Michelob Ultra Arena successful its tuneup earlier leaving for Tokyo, but Lillard has done his part, averaging 16.3 points, including a team-high 22 successful a 91-83 nonaccomplishment to Australia connected Monday.
Lillard is coming disconnected possibly the champion play of his career. The constituent defender averaged 28.8 points, 7.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds and finished seventh successful the MVP race.
But now, playing alongside prolific scorers specified arsenic Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum, Lillard plans to change his crippled successful Tokyo.
“I didn’t travel present to effort to play the nonstop aforesaid mode that I play successful Portland,” Lillard said. “I came present to beryllium a weapon, to play disconnected of different guys. I came present excited to not beryllium precisely who I’ve been for my squad but to usage my accomplishment acceptable and each of my abilities to complement everybody other connected this team. Sometimes that mightiness mean being much assertive with the ball, sometimes that means disconnected the ball.”
Lillard’s archetypal Olympic acquisition has been a agelong clip coming. The six-time All-Star was named a finalist for the 2016 squad but didn’t marque the roster.
“At this constituent successful my career, I’m 30, gonna beryllium 31 soon, this is thing that would beryllium a large accomplishment,” helium said. “Something that’s large to beryllium a portion of, a large happening to adhd to my resume and my legacy.”
It wasn’t conscionable the Olympic acquisition that convinced Lillard to articulation the team. Longtime San Antonio Spurs manager Greg Popovich’s beingness pushed him implicit the top.
“Pop being the manager of the nationalist squad played a large relation successful my determination to commit,” Lillard told The Associated Press successful June. “I person a batch of respect for Pop arsenic a manager and arsenic a person.”
The nine-year NBA seasoned has been the taxable of commercialized rumors during the offseason. After a signifier past week, Lillard addressed the media for the archetypal clip since Portland’s first-round playoff nonaccomplishment to the Denver Nuggets.
“At this point, it’s a batch of things being said, sometimes words being enactment successful my mouth, and I haven’t said anything,” Lillard said. “… All of the radical who’ve covered maine since I’ve been successful the NBA, they cognize that if there’s thing to beryllium said oregon if I deliberation thing oregon person thing to say, I’m going to accidental it and I’m going to basal connected it.”
This summertime is Lillard’s archetypal planetary hoops experience, but he’s taken connected a enactment role. After the 2 losses, helium recovered himself speaking connected the team’s behalf aft little than a period together.
“These teams are experienced. They’ve spent a batch of clip together,” Lillard said Monday. “We’re not conscionable going to travel retired here, rotation the shot retired and bushed these teams. We’ve got to play the close way.”
The squad plays Australia connected Friday and Spain connected Sunday astatine Michelob Ultra Arena earlier leaving for Tokyo.