Tony Kornheiser Insults Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge And All of Portland On PTI

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

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.

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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

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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?

Kornheiser: Yes!

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!

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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 …

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.)

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VIDEO: Phantom Cam Recap And All 12 Of Lillard's Game 4 Field Goals

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
10 months ago

The Trail Blazers have arrived in Memphis for tomorrow’s Game 5 at FedExForum (tipoff scheduled for 6:30 pm on KGW, TNT and 620 AM), wherein they will try to extend their postseason by getting their first road win of the series.

But before we completely turn the page on Game 4, let’s look back at some of the highlights, if for no other reason than it was the first time during this series that the Trail Blazers turned in a performance worthy of repeated viewing.

First, there’s the phantom cam highlights, which recaps Game 4 in super slo-mo. Damian Lillard’s spin move past Tony Allen and Beno Udrih, which he followed up by finishing with a reverse layup while absorbing contact from Marc Gasol at the 50 second mark has to be one of the best plays of Portland’s 2015 postseason.

Here’s the Vine of that Lillard spin move finish for easier repeated viewing…

And on the topic of Lillard, he scored a career playoff-high 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting in Game 4, which prompted the NBA to put together a package of all of his field goals Monday night. They also tossed in two of his game-high seven assists for good measure.

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VIDEO: Phantom Cam Recap And All 12 Of Lillard’s Game 4 Field Goals

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
10 months ago

The Trail Blazers have arrived in Memphis for tomorrow’s Game 5 at FedExForum (tipoff scheduled for 6:30 pm on KGW, TNT and 620 AM), wherein they will try to extend their postseason by getting their first road win of the series.

But before we completely turn the page on Game 4, let’s look back at some of the highlights, if for no other reason than it was the first time during this series that the Trail Blazers turned in a performance worthy of repeated viewing.

First, there’s the phantom cam highlights, which recaps Game 4 in super slo-mo. Damian Lillard’s spin move past Tony Allen and Beno Udrih, which he followed up by finishing with a reverse layup while absorbing contact from Marc Gasol at the 50 second mark has to be one of the best plays of Portland’s 2015 postseason.

Here’s the Vine of that Lillard spin move finish for easier repeated viewing…

And on the topic of Lillard, he scored a career playoff-high 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting in Game 4, which prompted the NBA to put together a package of all of his field goals Monday night. They also tossed in two of his game-high seven assists for good measure.

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Trail Blazers Look To Get Damian Lillard Going

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
10 months ago

The first two games of their first round series versus the Memphis Grizzlies have been rough for the Trail Blazers, particularly for Damian Lillard. While no Blazer has played particularly well thus far, Lillard’s struggles have been the most noticeable, especially when contrasted with his performance in last year’s first round matchup against the Rockets, a series that culminated with the 6-3 guard out of Weber State hitting a now legendary Game 6 series-winning three-pointer as time expired.

While his Game 6 performance is the most enduring memory of that series, Lillard was spectacular through all six games. He averaged 25.5 points per game on 47 percent shooting from the field and a ridiculous 49 percent shooting from three while also adding 6.7 assists, 6.3 rebound and 1.3 steals in a hefty 44.7 minutes per game (you may recall that three of the six games went to overtime). The Spurs had much more success slowing him down in the second round, holding him to just 17 percent shooting from three, though he still shot 41 percent from the field and averaged almost 20 points and just over six rebounds before the Trail Blazers were eliminated by the eventual World Champions in five games.

Flash forward to today and one imagines Lillard would be happy to play as well as he did against the Spurs, let alone the Rockets, versus the Grizzlies. Shooting just 27 percent from the field and a perplexing nine percent from three, the third-year point guard lamented after practice Friday afternoon that the Grizzlies’ defense has been all but impenetrable through the first two games.

“It’s been tough,” said Lillard. “They do a really good job of clogging up the paint, keeping a lot of bodies in the paint to where it’s kind of uncomfortable being down there because they’re playing physical and they’re playing really good team defense. You’ve got to give them credit, but the good looks I do get, I’ve got to make those shots. I just haven’t made shots.”

Lillard, along with the rest of the team, has studied film in an effort to figure out way that he might get himself going heading into Game 3 Saturday night at the Moda Center. He may try to get the ball up the court quicker and look to set up his teammates more often in an effort to make the game easier for everyone involved.

“Watching film, I see a lot of times where even if they’re crowding up and there’s not a shot for me, there’s times where I can make plays for other guys,” said Lillard. “There’s always adjustments I can make. Using screens better, picking spots better, pushing the tempo. It’s really hard to score on them in the halfcourt when their defense is set, so just trying to create better opportunities, maybe make more plays so they loosen up on just trying to control me so much. Just make the game easier for myself.”

But even though there are areas in which he could better exploit what little the Grizzlies are giving him, if he’s not able to make the shots that he typically makes, be it in the playoffs last year or the regular season this year, no amount of changing up is going to make much difference.That’s why, even though you’re likely to see Terry Stotts try a few new things to get Lillard going, it’s unlikely that wholesale changes are going to be implemented. That would be impractical and also foolish, as much of what the Blazers are doing are the same things that worked well in the past, including against the Rockets in last year’s playoffs.

“We’ve done somethings, we made some adjustments between Game 1 and Game 2, different sets,” said Stotts of what he and his staff have done to try and help Lillard find his offensive rhythm. “He’s missed some good shots. A lot of the shots he’s made over the course of his career, he’s had, so you don’t want to over-analyze and do things — we’re doing a lot of the same things that have gotten him to this point. The ball is going to be in his hands, we’ve looked at different things. But ultimately, the one thing is — for everybody, not just Damian but everybody– passing the ball, finding the ball on the weakside, creating opportunities for your teammates to get easier shots. I think that lends itself to more rhythm at the offensive end.”

Portland will need that improved rhythm, and a steady dose of shot-making, if they’re to best the Grizzlies Saturday night for the first time in their last six tries. If the Trail Blazers managed to get there offensive going and still lose, they’ll know that the Grizzlies are simply a better team on both sides of the ball. But if they can somehow shake off two disappointing offensive performances to take Game 3, they’ll give themselves a chance to repeat their success against the Rockets last season rather than mimicking their failures versus the Spurs.

“We haven’t been down in a situation like this where we haven’t played well,” said Lillard. “Last year against the Spurs we lost the first three games but in that series we were making some shots, they just outplayed us. Now we’re struggling on the offensive end. It’s different but it’s a new challenge. I think we should be excited to have this opportunity because it seems like everything is going downhill. ‘Do they have a chance?’ It’s an opportunity for us to rise up again. They won the two on their court, now we’ve got to try and take it one game at a time and take care of our home court and see where it goes.”

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