Damian Lillard was a guest on the Feb. 11 edition of The Jim Rome Show. You can listen to the interview here
, or read the transcript below. Questions and answers are as close to verbatim as one can get from the radio.
Damian great to have you on the show. How are you?
"I'm good. How are you?"
Good. Really good. Coming off a tough loss to Orlando last night, so let me ask you about that. You had, well frankly, your worst shooting night of your young career, 1 of 16. You've had a great year but that was a tough night. I know it's a long year and you've got to keep moving. How tough is it to shake something like that and how long does it take to get our of your system?
"Um, I think the biggest thing is just moving on. Any time you think about a bad shooting night or any time something didn't go well it tends to carry over. Might have another night like that because I'm thinking about what happened on Orlando, but we played so many games in an 82-game season so you get a quick opportunity to come out and have a better shooting night."
To that point, what's it like? I mean, you're almost at the All-Star break right now. You're accustomed to playing 30-plus games in college. Like, the half of the NBA season, your first half of your first NBA season, how does that feel compared to an entire college season?
"I mean, I think the NBA season is a lot tougher because so much of the travel. We might play a home game then the next day we're in New York, then the next day we're somewhere else. So the travel, playing against the best players in the world. You know, I'm playing a lot of minutes. It's a lot tougher than college, but I think some people underestimate the grind of the college season. You have teams that practice hard every day, travel, not as much as the NBA but it's still pretty tough. But I think the NBA is a way bigger challenge."
That's how I take it. Part of the thing is having most fans say 'Yeah, rough life. Rough life. Give me that life!' Five-star hotels, charter flights, this that and the other but I think anybody who just travels, travel alone is exhausting, but if you travel as much as you guys do and you've got to show up and have these runs every night against the best of the best and practice, I can see how that can take a toll. The travel alone would take a toll.
"It does. When you're flying until 1 in the morning, 2 in the morning and you have a game there. It's tough to get up for it because you really don't have enough time to recover. The charter flights, it's a lot better than getting on a normal flight, so we're lucky. People want pictures and autographs, things like that, so charter flights makes it easier on us. But at the same time it's still a flight, we still have to get up and play some times on that next day on a back-to-back. It's tough."
Now you find yourself in the middle of a six-game road trip, a really important six-game road trip. In fact, important enough that LaMarcus Aldridge called it a "make or break" road trip. Is that how you entered into it? is that how it feels you, is it a make-or-break trip?
"I knew that it was a big trip for us because it could take us in either direction. We could drop under .500 or we (inaudible). I don't think it will break us, but I think if we could get these next two wins it would be good momentum for us going into the All-Star break."
On this trip you're 1-3, got a couple games left. You've got Miami tomorrow night. Talk about how critical that game is at Miami?
"It's really big for us. It'll be tough because of how well they're playing but if we can get that one, that would put us at 2-3 on this trip, going into New Orleans, which I think is a winnable game. Every game is but I think that's a very winnable game. If we could finish this road trip .500, 3-3, then we'll be a game above .500, we'll be sitting pretty."
I'm always fascinated by guys, where they start, where they end up. You look at the year you're having right now and it's even more interesting when you consider what you had to get through and what you had to get to to get here. For instance, you start out in high school at St. Joseph's in Alameda, Jason Kidd's alma mater. You weren't seeing a lot of minutes at that time and your parents were paying good money to send you there, yet you weren't getting to play. At that time, what where you thinking about basketball and your prospects?
"I mean, I was getting nervous because I was a really big fan of college basketball. I wanted to play in the NBA as much as anybody. But I kinda stepped away from it because I wasn't getting into the game at all at the time. Some times I'd play two, three minutes and other times I wouldn't see the floor. It was tough for me because, everywhere I've been, I wasn't always the best player, but I played. My parents, they're paying money that they don't have to pay for school and I'm not even getting an opportunity to play. It put me in a a tough spot but I just knew that I wouldn't let myself back down from that challenge. I left the school and went back to a public school and I found my place."
And then you flourished. You ended up going to Oakland High in Oakland and averaged more than 20 per game as a senior, but even at that point, like when it seemed like it was all good and was going to work out you weren't getting a lot of attention in recruiting circles, at that point it seemed like you had proven your point but still you weren't getting that attention. What was going on then? How come?
"I just think because of the area I was in, it's not a big time area. We don't have a lot of top prospects. I didn't play on a well-known AAU team, so I didn't get the recognition. It didn't bother me; all I wanted to do was get a scholarship. I got on the circuit over the summer and that's when schools started to recruit me and help schools offer me. I just figure what school I went with, make the most of the opportunity. I was blessed to get a scholarship to Weber State. I think my time there was well spent. They really helped me develop myself as a person and a player and I was able to get draft."
What was that like, both on and off the court, the transition from Oakland to Ogden, Utah?
"I mean, the type of person that I am, i think Ogden really fit me. It was a laid back, really laid back city, really good people. I met a lot of friends there. I was comfortable as soon as I got there. I had really good relationships with my coaches. It was a lot slower than what I was used to but it really fit my style, really fit my personality. So I enjoyed my time there."
One more thought about your time there. You had a significant test your junior year. There was some talk you might leave early then nine games into that season you broke your foot and you had a lot of time on your hands. At that point what did you do with all that free time?
"For about a week, I pouted. I was feeling sorry for myself because I had never had a real serious injury. At this time I was thinking about the NBA, I'm finally performing, scouts are noticing and you break your foot. I pouted for a little bit and then after about a week, week and a half, I met with my coaches and we developed a plan of what I could be doing while I was hurt to get better. I just started to do ball-handling work. I was in the chair, shot on the gun (the name given to the ball return machine used in basketball) from the chair. I was lifting weights six days a week and I watched film of every game I had played up until that point at Weber State. I came up with a list of what I needed to do better based off what I saw and my coach did the same thing. The summer that I was recovering, we broke it all down and worked on those things and I got better at it."
Made the use of the downtime. I'm listening to this and I'm struck by 1) your honesty and then I watch you on the floor and I'm struck by your fearlessness. And there's a story Damian -- you've got to tell me if this is true -- I'm watching you as a player and it seems you're fearless on the court but you admitted if there's one thing that does frighten you, it's statues. And not just statues, but historic statues and it actually goes back to a bad experience at a wax museum. Is that all true?
"I was at Madame Tussauds in Las Vegas. I'm walking in the wax museum seeing all the celebrities and I happened to walk into the last room and there's the dead presidents. Martin Luther King. Really huge icons. The Jesus statues and all that kind of gave me shivers. When I saw those people and the music that was playing, it just didn't sit right with me. When I see statues, it kind of bothers me."