After a week of workouts and a scrimmage in Las Vegas, USA Basketball has reduced the roster for the 2014 FIBA World Cup down to to 16 players, with Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard surviving the cut.
“We had an excellent training camp in Las Vegas and each player gave a great effort and deserves recognition and thanks for his commitment and hard work,” said USA Basketball National Team Director Jerry Colangelo via press release. “We’ve said all along that we would be proud to have any of the players who were in Las Vegas represent USA Basketball and the United States. This phase of the selection process was extremely difficult and very thorough, and it’s worth again mentioning that we are looking to select the best team, which are not necessarily the best players.”
Lillard will now join up with the remaining 16 players for two days of training in Chicago on Aug. 14 and 15 before an exhibition game versus Brazil on Aug. 16 at the United Center. He still faces tough competition to make the final 12-man roster, even with guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, along with power forward Paul Milsap, being cut and wing Paul George out after suffering a an open tibia-fibula during the USA Basketball Showcase scrimmage on Aug. 1.
With players like Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Houston’s James Harden and Golden State’s Stephen Curry considered locks to make the World Cup roster, Lillard will likely have to beat out at least Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, who played for USA Basketball Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, and Golden State’s Klay Thompson for a chance to represent the United States in Spain come August 31.
“Certain we’re heavy with outstanding talent at the guard spots, the one and the two. So guys have to be ready to pay both (positions),” said Krzyzewski in a conference call on Tuesday. “We’re not going to be able to keep all the guys, but everyone played very well. Damian had a good week. I think he can be even better.”
Lillard has shown he can play both point guard and shooting guard, though he almost exclusively played at the point during the USA Basketball Showcase scrimmage, where he played 14 minutes and finished with seven points, three rebounds, an assist, a steal, no turnovers and one buzzer-beating three-quarter court shot.
If Lillard is to make the final roster, he’ll also need to show he can play a much more complementary role that he does with the Trail Blazers.
“Part of it is just getting accustomed to playing with all these guys and playing in a different role,” said Krzyzewski. “All of these guys are playing a different role. You come off the bench, you might just play a few minutes, you’re not that starter who can work his way into it. So we think that the week was good. Damian did a good job and we’ll be able to see more over these next two stops in Chicago and New York.”
As for when Lillard will know whether he’ll either spend the first part of September competing in Spain or back home resting up for the start of the 2014-15 season, it sounds as though the decision won’t be made at least until the training and exhibition games schedule to take place in New York between Aug. 18-22.
“We haven’t set a specific date,” said Krzyewski of the final cuts. “What we would like to zero in on is a core group that we can settle in on. We’re starting to see that but we haven’t determined that completely yet. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that in Chicago or, at the latest, by New York.”
A little over a week ago, Damian Lillard, aka Dame D.O.L.L.A., held his first concert ever, a sold out affair at the Crystal Ballroom that also featured CJ McCollum and Tim Frazier dancing on stage, on his 26th birthday. By all accounts (including my own), the show went off without a hitch.
After getting his first official show under his belt, Lillard took his show on the road last weekend, performing for a packed crowd of high schoolers at the adidas LVL3 event, which was a part of the adidas Uprising AAU tournament held in Las Vegas. Media wasn’t granted access to Lillard’s Portland show, so video of that performance is scarce (though a, new “License To Lillard” episode chronicling the night is in the works), but there are a few clips of Lillard performing this weekend in Vegas, with fellow NBA players such as James Harden and Derrick Rose in attendance in case you’re curious about Dame’s stage presence…
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) July 24, 2016
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) July 23, 2016
Lillard also shared the stage with a few of the players on Team Lillard Elite, the AAU team he sponsors in conjunction with adidas, who were brave enough to test their battling skills in front of a crowd of their peers…
— #4BarFriday (@4BarFriday) July 24, 2016
In addition to the show, Lillard spoke during a panel about his signature shoe, the D Lillard 2, and participated in a number of stations adidas was running in order to keep the large number of teenage boys in attendance from the tournament from doing the kind of things teenage boys do when they get bored…
Just the beginning.
— adidas Basketball (@adidasHoops) July 24, 2016
Join the movement.
— adidas Basketball (@adidasHoops) July 23, 2016
Yesterday was a movie.
— adidas Basketball (@adidasHoops) July 22, 2016
— adidas Basketball (@adidasHoops) July 21, 2016
Looks like everyone had a great time and Lillard was right in the center of the action, which is good news if you’re a Trail Blazers fan. After all, it’s never a bad thing to have young, talented players rubbing elbows and building relationships with your franchise player.
Comedian/actor/radio show host Jay Mohr was in Portland on Thursday during which he hosted a live edition of Jay Mohr Sports on Rip City Radio 620 AM. Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, who is still in Las Vegas taking in Summer League, joined the show to discuss a host of NBA topics. You can listen to the entire interview below, though I’ve also transcribed a few of the more interesting answers…
“They’re going to be damn good, that’s for sure. They’ll be a little bit different, they lost three of their big guys so they’ll have to tweak their defense a little bit. One of the keys to their success the last two years was their defense and I think that got overlooked because of how well they scored the ball. They’re going to be a better offensive team, they’re going to be the favorite to win, but you never know until you toss it up.”
On signing free agent guard/forward Evan Turner…
“I’ve read some of the experts about us signing Evan and I’m surprised they don’t see the fit, because Evan is a really good basketball player. He handles the ball, he’s got a high assist ratio, he makes players better. I talked to Brad Stevens about him afterwards, they’re going to miss him in Boston. He’s a versatile defender, he’s unselfish, I think he fits into our culture. The one thing that I think gets overlooked is there was such pressure on Damian and CJ last year to be scorers and playmakers and particularly, the way I rotated the players, one of them was in the game at all times. Well Evan gives us another playmaker to take some of the load off of Damian and CJ, hopefully they’ll get better shots. You can add more playmaking — you look at the Golden State Warriors, how many playmakers they had on the court. They had two, three, four playmakers on the court at one time and that just adds to your effectiveness offensively. And defensively, Evan’s a versatile defender, he can guard two or three positions. Like I said, I think he fits in really well.”
On Damian Lillard tweeting “Hell no” when asked about returning to Oakland to play for the Warriors…
“It was pure Damian. He’s proud to be a Blazer, he loves Portland, he loves the franchise and he’s really embraced the role of being the face of the franchise. I was glad to read that.”
On the baseless speculation that the team is moving to Seattle…
“(Laughs) No. With all due respect to you Jay, and I do have immense respect, but that doesn’t really deserve a response. We’re the Portland Trail Blazers, always have been.”
It’s summer time in Portland (or at least, it’s supposed to be), which means there’s no lack of street fairs, farmers markets, beerfests and art walks to attend. Anyone who frequents such events knows how hard it can be to get from Point A to Point B when there’s thousands of people in between.
But Damian Lillard has you covered. In a new adidas short entitled “Creating Clutch,” the 6-3 point guard out of Weber State traverses a busy street market in China (wearing the “PDX Carpet” colorway of the D Lillard 2, if I’m not mistaken) using an array of moves that you can incorporate into your own crowd-surfing…
In “Creating Clutch,” Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard shows us there is no such thing as downtime if you want to be one of the best clutch players in the NBA. A crowded street market in China during his recent Summer tour became his court, the ultimate opportunity to test his creativity and put his skills to the test.