When it comes to the NBA All-Star game, especially in the Western Conference, there is always going to be a deserving player that feels left out of the festivities.
If you are a point guard in the Western Conference it is even more difficult for you to make the All-Star team. Reigning MVP Stephen Curry has even found himself on the list of All-Star snubs in the past before gaining the respect that he deserves.
This year however, the biggest snub was Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers who found himself as the odd-man out after making the All-Star game in 2014 and 2015.
Since the All-Star break Lillard has been letting his play do the talking as to why he belongs in the conversation when we think of the best point guards in today’s game.
Lillard has taken the underdog route to get to where he is in the NBA, so any perceived slight looks to be used as motivation by him. Lillard was not a highly sought after recruit in high school before he went to Weber State. In college Lillard won Big Sky Player of the Year in 2010 and 2012 but he did not truly burst on to the scene until after he was drafted sixth overall by the Portland Trail Blazers.
Lillard went on to win NBA Rookie of the Year and made himself known to any doubters who wondered who he was. This year Lillard has doubters to address, once again. After power forward LaMarcus Aldridge left the Trailblazers in free agency to join the Spurs, this is officially Lillard’s team. Many people wondered if Portland would be able to return to the playoffs after losing such a key piece.
Lillard has answered the bell and then some this season now that he is “the man.” He is averaging a career-high 25.1 points per game and 7.2 assists per game while leading the team with 36 minutes a night.
Portland has also been on a tear as of late, winners of 11 of their last 12 games they have pushed themselves into playoff contention. It is no shock that Lillard has played well over that stretch. However, his statement game came against the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 19.
This game was a litmus test for Lillard going up against the best point guard in the game, Curry. After spending the All-Star break at home, Lillard went out and gave Curry buckets. Lillard scored 51 points and made nine out of 12 three pointers. He also had seven assists and six steals on the way to a blowout 137-105 victory.
With a performance like that, Lillard now has everyone’s attention. If Lillard can keep up this level of play the rest of the season, Portland will be a playoff team that many of the top seeds will want to avoid.
Spencer Mayfield is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.