Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard got his busy All-Star Weekend off to a positive start with a 13-point, five-assist, five-rebound performance as a starter on Team Hill in the 2014 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. Lillard’s side, Team Hill, defeated Team Webber 142-136.
“I just didn’t go out there with the mindset of I’m going to go out here, play my hardest,” said Lillard. “I just wanted to go out there, get some shots up, try to help my team, make some passes, throw some lobs and just enjoy the game. And I did.”
The Rising Stars Challenge was the first of five events Lillard is participating in during the festivities in New Orleans, and the 6-3 guard out of Weber State wasted no time showing his full range of skills for the crowd at Smoothie King Arena. He made a three-pointer within the first minute of play and followed up with a stepback jumper, a floater, a layup and a dunk to end the first half with 11 points in a little less than 16 minutes. He also added two assists, two rebounds and a steal.
Lillard looked to distribute and hit the glass more after the intermission, handing out three assists and grabbing four rebounds in the second half while taking just five shots.
“I played how the game was being played,” said Lillard. “It’s kind of tough when you’re playing a game like that and it’s in that mode of kind of a lazy game and it’s hard to find that level where you need to be at where you don’t want to be out there playing too hard, running into guys, but you still want to be able to play the game the right way. I was definitely relaxed. I didn’t go out there and try to overdo it or outshine anybody. There’s a lot of rookies out there and I wanted to let them play the game and have fun. I just wanted to be a part of it.
Lillard’s performance in this year’s Rising Stars Challenge was similar to his appearance in the same event last year in Houston. As a rookie starter for Team Shaq, Lillard finished with 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals in a 163-135 loss to Team Chuck.
Next up, Lillard will compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout and the Sprite Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday night.
“I’m really excited about tomorrow,” said Lillard. “I had a chance to play in this game last year and I really enjoyed it last season. This season, it was okay. I had a good time being a part of it again but tomorrow, really looking forward to it.”
Those events kick off at 6 PM on TNT.