After being snubbed the previous two years, Damian Lillard was deservedly named an All-Star again this season and proved why he belongs among the best players in the league with an impressive display.
Representing Team Stephen in Los Angeles on Sunday night, the Portland Trail Blazers star dropped a team-high 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting and 3-of-8 from beyond the arc.
The point guard was clearly playing with a chip on his shoulder and had a point to prove.
He outplayed many of his teammates on the night including Stephen Curry and James Harden.
Once again, Lillard is having another productive campaign as he’s averaging 26.1 points, 6.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game on 44.7 percent shooting and 37 percent from three-point range.
Since being drafted by the Blazers in 2012, he’s been one of the most consistent players in his position but he’s still slightly underrated and doesn’t often get the credit he deserves.
In an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols this week, he discussed his status in the league and where he feels he ranks among his peers.
“I think I’m as good as any point guard in this league. It’s that simple,” he said, per Blazer’s edge. “There’s nothing that any point guard in this league can do that I can’t.”
It’s tough to disagree with the 27-year-old as he’s capable of doing almost everything on the court and has to carry a bigger burden playing with no All-Stars on his team unlike many of his rivals.
Heading into the break, Lillard was the hottest point guard in the league as he dropped 50 points on the Sacramento Kings, 39 on the Utah Jazz and 44 in a thrilling win over the Golden State Warriors.
C.J. McCollum aside, Dame doesn’t have many teammates he can turn to for scoring help and he’s more than aware that Portland needs to bring in more talent if they are to make that next step in the west.
The top teams in the conference such as the Warriors, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Oklahoma City Thunder all have multiple All-Stars in their team and it makes it difficult for the Trail Blazers to compete.
This led Lillard to recently request a meeting with owner Paul Allen to discuss the future of the team and which direction they’re heading in.
“It was just me showing urgency, like, spark that urgency…figure out, “OK, what do we have to do?” We’re a five, six seed. What do we have to do to make the jump?” he told Nichols when asked about the purpose of his meeting with Allen.
“If you don’t have a line of communication with people who can make the changes or the people who can make impact for things happening for the better, then you’re just going out there playing.”
The Oregon-based franchise is currently seventh in the west with a 32-26 record and is in a fight with at least four teams to secure one of the final playoff spots.
The responsibility will fall on Lillard and McCollum to get them there, but if they want to have a chance of making a deep run, the front office must make moves and surround them with the talent to help get it done.