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Rajon Rondo A Better Blazer Than Damian Lillard?



The last playoff game in Memphis didn’t go well. Neither did the first.

That’s the NBA. Teams click, then they don’t, and everyone finds a player to blame.

In Portland that player is Damian Lillard.

The poor guy becomes a household name, gets a ton of press, and he’s now the biggest problem?

Lillard faced the best point guards in the Western Conference at the end of the season. Stephen Currie, Chris Paul, and Russel Westbrook took turns lighting him up.

Did anyone notice how they scored around forty each?

The story then was Lillard’s best defense is his offense. If he’s off on offense, what’s the back-up for his defense then?

Great players fill up their stat lines with rebounds, steals, assists, free throws. They spark their teams to greater effort. They make other players better.

Leaders don’t turn into anchors and moor their teams in one place.

The NBA Playoffs aren’t a fishing trip.

No sports fan needs an anchor holding their team down. Look at the Memphis Grizzlies. Their point guard is nearly crippled, they say. He’s got something wrong with his foot that feels like running on a golf ball.

An easy opponent for Lillard?

Conley went for eighteen points in the second game, another reminder that Portland picked the wrong Buckeye in the Greg Oden draft.

It’s one thing to get drilled by Currie, Paul, and Westbrook. But a one legged Conley with foot and wrist injuries?

Call Lillard out, but don’t call him a quitter.

That title belongs to Rajon Rondo. You feel bad for Lillard? His shots aren’t dropping. His defense is lacking. But he’s still playing.

He hasn’t quit on his coach, his team, or the Portland Trail Blazers.

Imagine how Dallas feels about their new Maverick. Rondo makes nearly $13,000,000 and he can’t shoot from the floor, the free throw line, or pass very well. Top it off with his clock skills.

He can’t tell time, turning the ball over when he walked it up late across the half court line.

This is a blue blooded NBA star from the University of Kentucky in the Blue Grass State.

He was an NBA champion with the Boston Celtics of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Now he’s either a quitter during the biggest part of the NBA season, or he’s injured.

Notice how I didn’t mention faking an injury?

Everyone has their own way of dealing with pain and injury.

Rondo’s was playing like a scrub then claiming a back injury. Backs are tricky things. They flare up, calm down, then when you least expect it strike like a overloaded electrical circuit.

Damian Lillard isn’t taking notes from the Rondo playbook.

He’ll take the hits, the complaints, and channel them into a better game, not a head game. He knows what to do. Quitting isn’t on his agenda.

He’s been down his entire basketball life, told he’ll never make it out of Oakland, never make it in college, never make an NBA team.

All he’s done is show everyone along the way how wrong they are. He knows how to get up, how to lift others and make them better.

You thought that job belonged to Wesley Matthews? It does, but Wes is off the court at game times. He can’t show his teammates what it means to play ‘Stop The Ball.’ And they don’t stop the ball.

Damian Lillard could crawl into a hole and pull the dirt in after him.

He could disappear to the point of ‘Damian Who?’ Sports fans have short attention spans.

The only thing to lift the haze of a team failure is blowing away the opponents in the next game.

Will it happen? Damian is different than Wes in one important way: He doesn’t have a torn achilles tendon to rehab.

He’s different than Rajon Rondo who tore his ACL in 2013 and may never be the same player.

There is speculation that Wes Matthews is the reason Damian Lillard is the Damian Lillard we know. Without Matthews, Lillard falls back in the pack of emerging point guards.

If you agree, you’d be wrong.

Lillard is the player we think he is. But he’s young.

He’ll find a way to dominate as long as he avoids the injury fear and plays to not get hurt. The best example of that is Derrick Rose in Chicago with one injury following another. He finding a way back.

Damian Lillard doesn’t need a map or a compass to find his way.

And he doesn’t need Wesley Matthews who may never be the same player after he heals. He needs to huddle up with LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Batum and make a pledge.

It’s not about a team that doesn’t lose to Spanish players, then does.

It’s not about getting hammered by lesser teams on a good night.

What it’s about is getting fired up enough to show fans the sort of basketball they’ve never seen.

“They think we’ve given up? They think they’ve seen the best we’ve got? We haven’t seen the best we’ve got and we’re here everyday. Let’s put one together. Then another. If it’s not my night, it’ll be yours. Or yours. Let’s wrap this team in victories like no one in Portland expects. Let’s show the NBA what it means to get up.”

That’s the sort of fired up Damian Lillard needs Saturday.



About David Gillaspie
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