During a segment on Monday’s edition of Pardon The Interruption, hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon took up the topic of Damian Lillard, his series-ending game-winner Friday against the Rockets and whether or not he’s now a national star. You can listen to the audio here, though I’ve transcribed the interview below. I’ll add my comments at the end.
Tony Kornheiser: Let’s go backwards now to the most exciting single play of the weekend. Damian Lillard’s buzzer-beater in Game 6 to send your over-hyped Houston Rockets home.
Michael Wilbon: My Rockets?
Kornheiser: Chandler Parsons had just hit what seemed to be the game-winner but Lillard came back with .9 seconds to win. Wilbon, is Damian Lillard now a national star?
Wilbon: Not quite, not quite. A game can do that, a shot can do that. We saw that at a different level with Austin Rivers. Austin Rivers people probably knew more than Damian Lillard because he’s the son of a famous coach.
Kornheiser: That was a college game but that was the number one college game of the year.
Wilbon: But that makes you a star, right?
Kornheiser: That’s right. Right.
Wilbon: This shot, which is being called — and you and I have been to Portland, we’ve seen great Portland teams and games in Portland — it is being called the biggest shot, the most important shot, in the history of that franchise. Not yet, Tony.
Kornheiser: That’s ridiculous.
Wilbon: I’m telling you what it’s being called in Portland.
Kornheiser: That’s ridiculous! Because they won a championship with Bill Walton.
Wilbon: But maybe there was no one shot associated with that team.
Kornheiser: I can’t listen.
Wilbon: I know that’s one of your favorite teams. But hold on for a second. Lillard can get to stardom from where he is now. Bill Walton has been a star in Portland. Clyde Drexler, lesser star, but a star. You can be a star in Portland. If Kevin Durant can be a star in OKC, Portland is a bigger place than Oklahoma City.
Kornheiser: Damian Lillard is not now a star for two specific reasons. One, he went to Weber State, which is not Duke and not Kansas, not Texas if you want to mention Durant. He doesn’t come into the league with anything.
Wilbon: He had no hype coming in.
Kornheiser: And now he’s in Portland, which is an outpost. And they play their games at 11 o’clock at night Eastern. Now, you go down the coast, the Lakers have stars and the Clippers have stars, but in Portland, not a place with a lot of stars in the background other than Bill Walton, it’s harder.
Wilbon: It’s harder.
Kornheiser: Adidas has just given him about a trillion dollars.
Wilbon: Adidas, like Nike, they’re right there.
Kornheiser: And maybe because they’re afraid that Derrick Rose is never really going to play again, so they got somebody with the same color
scheme and they want to make him into a star. But for Damian Lillard, now in Portland, to be a national star, they’ve got to get to the Finals. Got to get to the Finals.
Wilbon: But if they beat the Spurs …
Kornheiser: LaMarcus Aldridge is better known than Damian Lillard!
Wilbon: You would think he’d be higher up the totem pole.
Kornheiser: And he’s (Aldridge) not a star. He’s not a star!
Wilbon: But there’s something about Lillard. The commercial, by the way, is very good, you admit, right?
Wilbon: They got THOSE people to be in that commercial. Pretty impressive.
Kornheiser: Yes, but he’s not, no, not yet, not a star yet.
Wilbon: Population theory or just northeast bias?
Kornheiser: No, no, no. Outpost! Do you think it’s northeast bias when I say that the Lakers and the Clippers have stars?
Wilbon: It was hard for you. The Lakers …
Kornheiser: The Clippers have stars.
Wilbon: You’re like all the other northeast writer, just annex the Lakers in like they’re yours.
Kornheiser: Yeah, pretty much.
Wilbon: Because you see some east coast people sitting on the front row.
Kornheiser: I tell you what, go to Portland, live.
Wilbon: Portland is a beautiful place.
Kornheiser: Yeah, except when it rains 300 days a year. I love you Portland! Love you!
So there you go. Now, a few things.
There’s probably no point in arguing who is and isn’t a “national star” as everyone has their own interpretation. Outside of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul, I’m not sure there’s a single player who everyone would characterize as a “national star.” Does Paul George fit that description despite playing in Indianapolis, a market smaller than Portland? How about Kyrie Irving in Cleveland? Or even the likes of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and (to a lesser extent) Tim Duncan? There are no hard and fast rules.
But in regards to Lillard, who has now been featured in numerous national ad campaigns, Kornheiser’s argument is that the combination of playing college ball at Weber State and professionally in Portland is the reason he doesn’t consider him a national star is specious at best. Maybe you had to play in a large market when Kornheiser first started working in sports three decades ago, but the media landscape has changed a lot since then.
Anyway, Lillard’s response was better than anything I could come up with anyway …
I don’t care what Tony Kornheiser thinks of me but whatever I do or do not become, will not be because I went to weber state. #RespectIt
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) May 5, 2014
As for Kornheiser’s opinion regarding Aldridge, maybe he’s not a household name, but three-straight All-Star appearances goes pretty far toward being a star in the NBA.
In regards to whether Lillard’s Game 6 game-winner is the biggest shot in franchise history, I’d be willing to listen to other suggestions, but considering it lifted the Blazers to their first Western Conference semifinals in 14 years and saved them from almost assuredly losing Game 7 on Houston’s floor, I’d say it’s minimum Top 3 all-time.
Finally, no one who chooses to live in Washington DC and willfully endures their brutally cold winters and putrid summers as Kornheiser does gets to complain about the rain in Portland. We love you too, Tony!
(By the way, I realize Kornheiser and Wilbon are laying on the shtick pretty heavy here and no one would take any of this all that seriously, but I assure you this provides some extra motivation for Lillard and Aldridge. Damian, in particular, lives for proving doubters wrong.)
OAKLAND — For the first three quarters, it looked as though the Portland Trail Blazers might actually beat the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, something that only two teams have managed to do in the last seven months.
But unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, NBA games last four quarters. And Tuesday night in Oakland, the Warriors outscored the Trail Blazers 34-12 in the final 12 minutes to come away with a 110-99 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,596 in Game Two of the Western Conference semifinals.
“We played three really good quarters, and we showed that we can compete with them, and it got away from us in the fourth quarter, obviously,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It was disappointing to lose a game that you’re competitive and you’re in a position to be in the fourth quarter. But we’ve got to close it out… It was an opportunity to get a win on the road, and we’ve got to learn from it and be ready to go get one in Game Three.”
The Warriors now lead the series 2-0.
“I think nights like tonight, they suck,” said Damian Lillard. “It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the L. But it is a part of growth. The entire season has been growth for us. But nights like tonight, we have to close that out. We have to get that done. It was just a missed opportunity.”
The first half of Tuesday night’s game went about as well as the Trail Blazers could possible expect, with Portland taking a 17-point lead in the second quarter thanks to shooting 51 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. Though the Warriors would cut into the Trail Blazers lead thanks to an 18-3 run, Portland, as was the case for most of the night, always seemed to counter at just the right time to quiet the Oracle Arena crowd. That counter in at the end of the second quarter came courtesy of back-to-back threes from Al-Farouq Aminu and Damian Lillard to push the lead back to eight by the intermission.
Portland, thanks mostly to Lillard going 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from three in the third, extended their lead to 11 going into the fourth quarter before Golden State got white hot to finish out the game. The Warriors took their first lead of the night early in the fourth quarter and would go on to win by 11 after finishing out the game by shooting 11-of-18 in the final 12 minutes of regulation. The Trail Blazers also play right into the Warriors’ hands by turning the ball over five times while going 5-of-19 from the field.
“I think the last run, they were desperate,” said Lillard. “It got to the point where it was win or lose. There wasn’t another quarter after that. It wasn’t just stay with it. It was, ‘We’ve got to do it now.’ And they played desperate, and we just didn’t respond to it well enough to finish the game.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who scored 17 in the third quarter before finishing with 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 6-of-11 shooting from three, six assists and four rebounds in 40 minutes. CJ McCollum went 9-of-19 for 22 points, two rebounds and two assists in 41 minutes.
Aminu got off to a fast start, scoring 10 points in the first quarter before finishing with 14 to go along with six rebounds and two assists. Maurice Harkless would add 11 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes with Gerald Henderson coming off the bench to add 12.
As was the case in Game One, Klay Thompson would lead the Warriors with 27 points on 7-of-20 shooting from the field and 5-of-14 shooting from three. Draymond Green, who was the driving force along with Festus Ezeli in Golden State’s pivotal fourth quarter, was just shy of another triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes while also blocking four shots.
“I think there came a point where me and Klay were trying to do too much,” said Green. “When we settled down and trusted everybody else, that’s when everything started to click for us. So as far as the way I’ve been playing with the exception of that one game, it’s playoff basketball. This is what we live for. You play the whole season to get to this point.”
Shaun Livingston and Harrison Barnes scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, with Andre Igoudala putting up 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting off the bench.
Next up, the series takes a three-day break before shifting to Portland for Game Three on Saturday at the Moda Center.
“We’ve been in bad positions time and time again, and we’ve never shied away,” said Lillard. “We’ve never not answered the call. I don’t see why this time it would be any different. In our last series against the Clippers, we were down 0-2. We went home, and the next two games they were pretty much full strength. They had their guys and we got it done those two games. Obviously, Golden State is a different monster, but we know the same thing can happen, and that’s what we’re going in there thinking and believing, and we’re back on our home floor. We’ve got to go out there and play a game like tonight and go finish it.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 pm on ABC and 620 AM.
The Trail Blazers held shootaround Tuesday morning at the Olympic Club in downtown San Fransisco in preparation for tonight’s Game Two of the Western Conference semifinal matchup versus the Warriors at Oracle Arena (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 pm on TNT and 620 AM). Some notes from shootaround…
• The Trail Blazers, after losing badly in Game One of their first round series versus the Clippers, made a host of adjustments going into Game Two. Whether it was having Al-Farouq Aminu guard Chris Paul, using Mason Plumlee to initiate more of the offense or giving spot minutes to Chris Kaman, Terry Stotts and is staff came up with a number of ways to mitigate L.A.’s advantages, which ultimately helped the Trail Blazers go on to win the series in six games.
So after the Trail Blazers lost 118-106 to the the Warriors in Game One of their second round series on Sunday afternoon, one might have assumed that Portland would once again make wholesale changes in time for Game Two Tuesday night at Oracle Arena. Turns out, that isn’t necessarily the case. While the Trail Blazers are sure to try a few different things, their adjustments will likely be a change of approach rather than tactics.
“The short answer to that is a little bit less only because it’s such a different style,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts of whether he’d be make more or less adjustments versus the Warriors. “So the adjustments that we’re making for this series is just trying to adjust from playing a team that’s so different than the team that we just played six games. Clippers play a different style of game, and that’s the adjustment we have to make.”
That difference in styles between the Clippers and Warriors makes Portland’s preparation for Game Two a bit more abstract than it was in the last series. The Warriors tend to play more of a freewheeling brand of basketball than the Clippers, which requires more nuanced adjustments on Portland’s end.
“I would say fewer adjustments for sure, because they play basketball,” said Mason Plumlee. “There aren’t a whole lot of plays, they exploit what they see as their playing the game. So it’s not a whole lot of scouting of plays, it’s more tendencies and personnel.”
The changes that worked versus the Clippers not necessarily working versus the Warriors is more proof of the individuality of every playoff series. The situations might be somewhat similar, but that doesn’t mean the solutions are the same.
“Everybody keeps drawing comparisons; you’ve got to let that last series go,” said Plumlee. “Every series is new, they’re a better team. This series is completely different so we have to make a point to come out and win this next game. I don’t think you can count on them getting up 2-0 and then giving you four-straight, so this next game is a big one.”
• When the Warriors went to their small lineups in Game One, the Trail Blazers countered by doing the same, with varying degrees of success. Portland played multiple lineups during the course of Sunday afternoon’s loss that have rarely been on the court together this season, if at all, including a five-man group that featured Maurice Harkless at “center” surrounded by four guards.
But Golden State has extensive experience utilizing small lineups, at least relative to Portland, and with the personnel on their roster reflecting that reality. So it’s debatable just how much the Trail Blazers should try to match those units rather than trying to take advantage of a size advantage.
“I’ll be dating myself, but when Seattle beat Golden State back in ’92, ’93, something like that, and (Don Nelson) was playing small ball and George (Karl) stayed big with Benoit Benjamin and Derrick McKey and Shawn Kemp. So (Seattle) beat (Golden State) playing to their strengths. I think the important thing is that you play to your strengths more than anything else.”
Stotts will likely continue to give some nontraditional lineups a try when the Warriors go small, but it’ll be just as important for their standard lineups to fare better than they did in Game One, particularly after giving up 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 17 second-chance points.
Said Mason Plumlee: “I think a way to punish them when they go small is to own the glass, get second-chance points and finish everything inside.”
• Though no one in the media knew about it until he answered questions in a decidedly raspy voice after Game One, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has been battling a significant chest cold for roughly the last week. While it stands to reason that an athlete, especially one playing at the highest level, would be affected negatively by such an illness, Lillard refused to blame the infirmaty for his less-than-stellar performance Sunday afternoon at Oracle Arena.
“I actually felt pretty good,” said Lillard. “Obviously being clogged up inside, it has you a little bit more winded than usual. There’s no excuses. The bottom line is my team needs me to perform better than I did.”
And it sounds, literally, like Lillard’s lungs won’t be as much of an issue in Game Two. The 6-3 point guard in his fourth season out of Weber State didn’t exactly sound like his normal self prior to Tuesday morning’s shootaround, but he said he’s making progress toward feeling better and didn’t sound as though his chest was on fire when making said proclamation.
“I feel better,” said Lillard. “Obviously still trying to shake it. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing the last two days, just trying to do different stuff to make myself feel better for tonight.”
Greetings from San Fransisco. After the Trail Blazers lost 118-106 to the Warriors in Game One of their Western Conference semifinal series, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, grabbed a couple mics to record the first second round edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which is now available for your afternoon listening…
On this edition, we discuss Sunday afternoon’s loss, Portland’s tough start and whether there’s anything positive to be taken from the last three quarters, dealing with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, the eventual return of Stephen Curry and if there any similarities between Sunday’s game and Game One versus the Clippers. We also answer a host of questions about Allen Crabbe, the enthusiasm at Oracle Arena, the quick turnaround from Game Six to the second Game One and give some tips on packing for regular business travel. And we also start the show off with some bad Mike Meyers impersonations. Sorry about that.