LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard became the first Trail Blazers since 1994 to play alongside each other as Western Conference All-Stars, though they ended up on the losing side of a 163-155 result Saturday night at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
“Just another opportunity to rub elbows with the elite players in the league, have a chance to get to know these guys better,” said Aldridge of the experiance. “Having Dame here, watching him do every event, I’m pretty sure he’s going to sleep well tomorrow.”
Aldridge was the first Trail Blazer to get in the game, checking in for Blake Griffin at the 1:12 mark of the first quarter. Aldridge would go on to play 13 minutes, finishing with four points on two of nine shooting and five rebounds, numbers which were better than either of two previous all-star appearances.
“It was fun,” said Aldridge. “I definitely had my opportunity to score. Didn’t make any shots but I think I played more minutes … Fourteen minutes, I think that’s an All-Star Game high for me. It was fun. The whole weekend was fun. I had fun with the activities and the things for the fans. A good weekend.”
Lillard got the typical first time All-Star treatment, playing just nine minutes, the second-fewest of any player on either roster. But considering he became the first player in NBA history to compete in five events at All-Star Weekend, playing limited minutes, especially in what could be the first of many All-Star appearances, hardly mattered.
“I understand it’s a seniority thing,” said Lillard. “You’ve got guys that are producing at the same level that I am for my team and they’ve been here five times already. They’re going to be on the floor. That’s a respect thing and that’s the way it should be. If I’m ever a five-time All-Star, four-time All-Star and a first-time All-Star comes in and plays more minutes than me or is finishing the game over me, I’m not going to like that. I respect it.”
Lillard finished with nine points in the losing effort, all of which came on three-point shots to become the first Trail Blazer to make three three-pointers in an All-Star game.
“The weekend was a great experience for me,” said Lillard. “It was a lot, obviously. I had a lot of appearances and media and fans and pictures and autographs, but it was all worth it. It was what I signed up for, it was a great experience for me. I thought playing in this game today, that’s the ultimate goal, to be in the All-Star Game and playing with LeBron James and Kevin Durant and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. I enjoyed myself.”
Lillard noted that playing alongside the best in the NBA was a boost to his confidence, one he hopes with have a positive effect on his play when the Trail Blazers return to the court on Wednesday.
“Just being around these guys, I’m already feeling more confident,” said Lillard. “My confidence was high before and now I’m taking more confidence from this just because now I feel like I’m one of them, I’m one of those guys. Can’t wait to take that attitude back to my team.”
Aldridge and Lillard now return to Portland to prepare for the stretch run of the season, which begins with a schedule that features eight of the next nine games at home.
“Now is the sprint to the end,” said Aldridge. “We’ve taken care of business early as far as putting ourselves in a really good position. Now we have to finish it off.”