At some point during the NBA award season, Damian Lillard is going to pick up the Rookie of the Year hardware. It is the biggest lock of the award season (even ahead of the inevitable LeBron MVP).
The question with Lillard — who is older than most of his draft class after a four-year college stint — is how good can he be in a few years? What is his ceiling?
Lillard is thinking high — very high — he told CSNNW.com’s Chris Haynes.
“I think I can be a first team All-NBA, I think I can be an All-Star, I think I can be an MVP,” Lillard told CSNNW.com. “That’s just my opinion. I don’t know when, but how I plan to work and how much better I want to be, I feel like anything is possible.”
That’s exactly what you want your stud rookie to say. That’s not to say his ego is getting too big.
“I’m not saying I deserve those things right now. That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that I set high standards for myself,” he said. “I’m not going to come out and try to force myself to be an MVP next season, I’m going to be myself and hopefully all the hard work that I put in will get me to that point. I can get a lot better.”
Lillard had advantages this year that Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond did not. First, he stayed healthy. Second, he had the ball in his hands (and a coach that would play him big minutes, unlike Drummond). Finally, Lillard had veterans like LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum around. He was on a better team, got better matchups than those others.
Not to take anything away from Lillard’s 19 points and 6.5 assists per game. Or that his 169 three pointers this season beat Stephen Curry’s rookie record. Lillard has earned everything he has gotten this season.
But there could be a lot more hardware coming. And his head is in the right place to get there.
Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are just like the rest of us.
The Thunder players sit around and belt out the Backstreet Boys’ “I want it that way.”
John Salley has said becoming a vegan sooner would’ve enhanced his NBA career.
Now, the former Piston has another idea for improving player health.
Salley, via TMZ:
I am a proponent and I believe in the advocacy of medical marijuana. We see football players in Alabama getting busted. We see – we need to get it out. We need to move it and realize that is something that can help the human body.
It helps athletes. I didn’t start smoking until my last two months before I was a pro. And I believe if I would’ve smoked while I was playing, I probably still would be playing.
Marijuana is already legal in Colorado (where the Nuggets play), Oregon (where the Trail Blazers play), Washington and Alaska. Medical marijuana is legal in numerous other states. The nation is definitely trending toward legalization.
If that continues, why shouldn’t NBA players be permitted to use the drug? It can be an effective method for treating pain – which is quite common in a profession that requires such intensive physical labor.
The 52-year-old Salley is obviously exaggerating about still played today if he smoked weed, but maybe his career would’ve lasted longer. Shouldn’t players determine for themselves what legal methods they can follow to manage injuries?
Perhaps, they’re already taking Salley’s advice.
John Wall and Bradley Beal admitted they clash on the court.
That caused controversy as the outside world expressed dismay at the Wizards guards’ attitudes.
Paul Shirley – who played for the Hawks, Bulls and Suns from 2003-05 – shrugged.
Paul Shirley on NBA.com:
What I learned, when I got to the NBA, was that my dreams of fraternity were naïve ones. I sat in locker rooms where players barely spoke to one another. I endured team plane rides where one guy stared daggers at the next because of a contract dispute.
Consequently, I barely batted an eye at the recent “revelation” that Bradley Beal and John Wall don’t much like one another.
Of course they don’t like each other, I thought. That’s just the way it is.
This is a secret of the NBA: Not all teammates get along. Some are friends, but many are just coworkers – and consider your relationship with your coworkers. Frequent travel for work and the closed-off nature of locker rooms can push players toward forging bonds – but those conditions can also magnify any rifts.
In theory, Wall (a slashing passer) and Beal (an outside shooter) should complement each other well. But it’d be hard to find a team where each of the top two scorers doesn’t believe he should get more shots.
The successful teams manage that tension productively. They can convince each player to accept a role, sacrifice and contain his displeasures.
Maybe the Wizards can get there.
But that – not a fantasy friendship between Wall and Beal – should be the goal.
Two years ago, Lance Stephenson was 23 years old and nearly an All-Star.
Now, he’s stuck trying out for a team without an open regular-season roster spot.
Brett Dawson of The Advocate:
The Pelicans have 15 players – the regular-season roster limit – with guaranteed salaries plus Chris Copeland, Robert Sacre and Shawn Dawson on unguaranteed deals.
In other words, Stephenson is trying out just to enter a competition for a roster vacancy that doesn’t even exist.
New Orleans has taken major steps to add perimeter help this summer, drafting Buddy Hield and signing E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway and Solomon Hill. If he somehow makes the team, Stephenson likely wouldn’t make the rotation, even with Tyreke Evans injured.
Still, Stephenson is just 25, and he showed major talent with the Pacers just two years ago. He made positive contributions to the Grizzlies last season, too.
But a disastrous stint with the Hornets and an underwhelming run with the Clippers weigh down his résumé.
Stephenson probably did enough in Memphis to prove he still has NBA-caliber ability. More than anything, he’ll have to convince the Pelicans – and other potential suitors – he has the right attitude to work in the league.