For much of his life, Damian Lillard has juggled basketball with school: junior high, high school, college at Weber State … you name it.
It came with the territory and he embraced the challenge.
But these days, the former Wildcat star is living life with basketball as his full-time job. A rookie with the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, Lillard returns to Utah to face the Utah Jazz tonight for a preseason game at EnergySolutions Arena.
“It’s been fun for me, really,” Lillard said after Portland’s morning shootaround. “When you’re coming up in high school and college there’s a lot of school work. You’ve got to learn to manage your time a lot better with everything you have to do between being on the court, going to class, homework, stuff like that. But now I go to practice (and) go home. That’s my day.”
A starter who has averaged 17 points and six assists in the preseason, Lillard has made in presence known around the NBA. The No. 6 overall pick in the June draft, there were a few question marks, primarily because he was coming from Weber State and not a college hoops factory like a Duke, a North Carolina or a Kentucky.
But he raised eyebrows right away, winning MVP at the Las Vegas summer league and showing not an ounce of intimidation.
Already his name is being mentioned as a possible NBA Rookie of the Year award winner. If he keeps leading his team in scoring, as he’s done in the preseason, he’ll certainly be in contention.
But individual awards don’t seem to be on his mind.
“I don’t feel like I have anything else to prove to people as far as me belonging in the league,” he said. “I just want to keep getting better. My only goal is to keep improving myself so I can help my team win games.”