Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard was in attendance Sunday night for Portland’s 75-67 victory versus the Houston Rockets at the 2014 Las Vegas Summer League. Before the game, Lillard discussed how he’s been keeping busy since the end of the season, beginning his offseason workouts earlier, making changes to his diet, his memories of playing in summer league, the upcoming tryouts for the 2014 USA Men’s National Team and how he’s trying to tailor his game for international play and why he loves living in Portland during the summer …
It seems like it’s been a busy summer for you so far. What have you been up to?
Damian Lillard: It’s been a great summer. Started working out a month or so earlier than I did last summer. I think I got a better feel for what I need to be doing as far as the timing going into the summer camps and getting ready for the next season. I think I’ve had a great summer so far. I’ve changed my diet a little bit, working out hard, which I always do and will do. But I think the most fun thing is I’ve had a lot of opportunities to impact people. I had a few events back home where I brought people out from the city, try to bring some positivity back to the city, getting people out and enjoying themselves instead of it always having to be something. That’s what I take the most pride in.
Being at my first session of camp every day the whole time and actually working with the kids and having a presence. And the same thing so far this week. I’ve really enjoyed being able to use my platform, the impact that I can have on people, kids, adults, teenagers. Whoever it is, I’ve really enjoyed embracing the fact that I can impact people as much as I can.
You mentioned changing your diet and returning to workouts sooner than last season. How is your body feeling now and what are some of those changes you’ve made?
Damian Lillard: Physically, I feel great. When I first started back working out, my legs were getting tired quick and I felt I was breathing heavy. Now I’m to the point where I can run. I can just go. I get tired, I breath hard, but I can still play while I’m like that.
As far as my diet, I just been eating a lot more healthy food, things that, when I sit at the table, I’m not looking forward to eating. So I know that must be good for me. And I’ve felt it. When I wake up in the morning I feel better. I don’t feel as heavy, more lively and refreshed. I’m excited about that, that I can discipline myself to do that.
Are there any particular parts of your body that you’re working on strengthening?
Damian Lillard: I want to stay strong, because I’m really strong right now, but I want to be slim and strong. I don’t want to be like stocky strong. Coming into training camp last year I was more stocky, but I want to be cut up. I want to be in better shape but I still want to be strong with my body that way. It’s been different exercises and resting as much as I train. I think being smarter has been a big part of that, Just laying down and going to sleep, get in the cold tub, not staying up as late so I’m just fresh. Stuff like that. I’ve taken a lot of advice from the dietician that the team brought in and my trainer that I do my conditioning with, Anthony Eggleton, about rest and stuff like that to help my body, stretching, all those types of things.
Being back here at the Las Vegas Summer League has to bring back some memories. In a lot of ways, this is where your professional career started.
Damian Lillard: It’s crazy, because how I felt coming back after winning Rookie of the Year is completely different from how I feel coming back this season. I feel like, when I come here, it’s like ‘I played in this a long time ago!’ That’s how I feel when I come here. It feels like a long time ago but there’s guys that I got drafted side-by-side that are playing in it right now. It’s good to see all the faces, it’s good to see the fans. They come out and support this like it’s the regular season. It’s a fun environment. Everybody comes out, you see all the media people from every team, you see national media, ESPN, Inside Stuff, Game Time, TNT, whatever it is. You see ex-players and guys trying to get back in the league. It’s great company. It’s good to be able to see all those people floating around.
The USA Basketball tryout is only a few weeks away. Are you ramping up to prepare for that?
Damian Lillard: I think I’m prepared. I’ve been working out really hard. I want to be in shape because I’m not going to have the responsibility that I have for the Trail Blazers. I’ve been shooting a lot of shots, making sure my jumper is as tight as it can possibly be, because I know I’m going to have to be able to knock down shots if I want to give myself a chance to make that team. And I’ve got to be able to “D” up. Without having the same responsibility I do with the Trail Blazers, I’m going to be able to pick up full court for my eight, nine minutes or however long I’ll be on the floor and play those eight or nine minutes as hard as I can to give something to the team and be able to make shots. I’ve been preparing myself for that.
How do you feel about your chances of making the team?
Damian Lillard: I like my chances. I’ve been hearing about people dropping out and stuff like that, but as a competitor, I liked my chances before that. Just because some guys have dropped out doesn’t mean I have a spot on the team, so I’m still going to go out there and compete and try to make an impression and get to the World Championships.
You’re one of the few guys who stays in Portland during the offseason. What do you think about Portland in the summer?
Damian Lillard: Man, I love Portland, especially when the weather changes and it goes from being cloudy and rainy and then the sun comes out. Nice days. They got a lot of restaurants where you can eat outside, there’s people everywhere, the downtown area is always popping off. It’s a fun city, it really is. I enjoy it. And also, a lot of people can go home and enjoy that time there. When I go home … I’m from a different type of city. It’s not always “Let’s have fun.” It’s “Watch your back” and “Watch where you go” and “Make sure you don’t go here at this time” and it’s really like that. For somebody like me, I really appreciate a place like Portland, just being able to be out and about. The worst thing that can happen to me is there is somebody might bump me and be like “Oh, that’s Damian Lillard.” I enjoy myself in Portland.