Damian Lillard sets goal of being All-Star

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Damian Lillard sets his goals high.

Last season’s Rookie of the Year isn’t shying away from expectations — he wants to help lead the Trail Blazers to the playoffs and he wants to make the All-Star Team this year. He believes he can.

That’s what Lillard said to Matt Moore of CBS’s Eye on Basketball, in an interview that also talked about bullying and his EA Sports NBA Live.

I think it’s always been internal. I always had high expectations for myself. If I go to a baseball field, if I’m playing with Major League Baseball players, I expect to play well. It comes from my family, too. They always made me believe it. Anytime I was playing basketball or football, they were telling me I belong out there. I started to take that attitude out there. Why not be an All-Star? I believe it can happen. As long as I believe it, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.

Blazers fans, you should like that this guy sets his goals that high.

Lillard needs to be more efficient and his defense needs to improve to be at an All-Star level, but those are reachable goals for him.

Lillard biggest All-Star hurdle is the West is LOADED with guards ahead of him. Last season Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul started, with James Harden, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook coming off the bench (and some fans complained about the Parker selection). That still left out Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson, Ricky Rubio (he had been injured), Steve Nash, and Mike Conley. Now for 2014, you can move Jrue Holiday — an All Star for the East last season — over to the West. It’s not that Lillard won’t deserve the nod, it’s that deserving players are going to miss the cut.

That said, I’m expecting Lillard to lead the Blazers to a much better season this year, it’s just like getting in the All-Star Game, getting in the playoffs in a loaded West will not be easy.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.