Damian Lillard, along with every other Trail Blazer, took questions from the media Friday after Portland's season-ending loss to the Warriors.
Talk about what this season has been like for you.
It's been a lot of fun for me, especially with the opportunity that they gave me right from the jump. From the beginning it was a learning process. They threw me into the fire and gave me a chance to make mistakes and they gave me a lot of freedom, so that made it easier on my part. I think I did a good job coming in, doing what I wanted to do. I just wanted to try to thane an impact of the team and I thought I did.
Have the losses worn on you? Can you imagine going through another season like this?
I hope we don't have to. I think we'll be a lot better next season. It was a bittersweet ending to the season but it all helped us in the future.
What aspect of your game are you looking forward to improving?
Well for me, I'll be watching a lot of film. We play 82 games, so I think it will be important for me to go back and actually see, like break down clips of some of the mistakes I made, see the things I got better at over the course of the season. ANd then I can base what I'm going to work on really off of those things. I have some things in mind that I want to work on, like floaters and different solutions around the rim. Other than that, I think everything else will come from what I take from watching the games.
Detail your plans for the summer.
I'll be here. I'm not going to pay for a house and not stay in it, so I'll definitely be here. I'll be visiting Oakland every now and then, go see my family, but I'll be here mainly.
Is there a moment that stands out from this season?
I always remember making the game-winner against New Orleans. I can remember at that point in the season, we had a couple games where it came down to the last shot and every time we came to the huddle I kept telling coach, 'Give me the ball.' I kept telling him, 'Give me the ball' and I didn't realize that I was doing it every time we had a chance to win a game. And I had missed like three, I think. I missed the first three that I took and then I remember against New Orleans, I didn't say it. We set up a play and the first look wasn't open and once it wasn't open, I knew I was shooting it, so when I made that, it was like relief. I finally made one. I'll never forget that.
You're going to workout with Team USA and Basketball Without Borders this summer?
Are you concerned that might be a lot for you to take on?
Nah, I don't think so. After last year, I was working out the entire time. Working out, playing in pickup games, getting ready for the draft, so I don't see why a few extra things this summer would hurt.
Seeing as how important you are to the team, do you feel a responsibility to help the team recruit free agents?
If it came down to it I would definitely be willing to reach out to guys just to better our team, but I don't think it's strictly up to me. I think it will come down to everyone on our team doing it.
If watching the playoffs going to be hard for you?
No. I've been watching the playoffs since I was a kid, so now it's just my team didn't make it. I'll be watching it, I'll be tuned in the same as I was last year.
Do you have a specific time you plan on working with Gary Payton?
It will probably be a month and a half or a month or two from now. I'm sure he'll be busy. By the time I go back home and get a few workouts in I'm sure he'll be there, so we'll probably link up then.
After the season you had this year, expectations for you will be high next season. Do you like that?
It's whatever to me. Even coming into this season, other people's expectations, it didn't matter to me because I had high expectations for myself. After this season, now my expectations for myself are even higher next season. I'm not worried about the expectations of other people. I know what I expect from myself and I know what I'm going to do over the summer to make it happen. I'm not really concerned with other people's expectations.
How important is it for Eric Maynor to come back next season?
I think it's really important. Hopefully it will be him, but if not, hopefully it will be somebody that can have the type of impact he did. When he came, everything became easier for me. I think our team was better with him because just having another point guard out there that was able to control the game, make plays. I think for me personally he took a lot of pressure off of me having to handle the ball a lot and having to make plays, so it was great having him.
How concerned are you about who might be back and who might not?
I'm concerned. Like, I remember the trade deadline, I was concerned then because I'd been in college for four years so I knew that the next year I was going to have the same teammates. It's different not knowing who's going to be back. You've been with these guys for a whole season and somebody might not be back next season after you developed these relationships, so that's the part that I don't like about it. Hopefully we have them all back.
What are the higher expectations you have for yourself?
I want to be an All-Star next season. I want to help our team make the playoffs next season and that's pretty much it. I want our team to compete at a higher level next year.
Who do you think will win the Finals?
I think it will be Miami and Oklahoma City again and I think Miami gonna win again.
How special has it been to go through your rookie season with Meyers Leonard and Will Barton?
I think it's been special because we, when we got drafted I talked to both of them. We thought, first of all, that Will should have been a first round pick and we felt like we had to bring something to the table for the team. We wanted to come in and basically prove why we got drafted where we did and Will wanted to prove why he should have been drafted higher. I thought with the opportunity I was given, I made a point that I deserved to get drafted where I did. I deserved to be in the position they put me in and I thought Meyers got better throughout the season. And when Will finally got his chance I thought he played really well so I think it said a lot about him, to not get a whole lot of minutes the whole season and to get his opportunity during the losing streak and at the end of the season when other guys were hurt and for him to still have a positive attitude and come in and play the way he did, that says a lot about who he is. I thought we had a good year for all the rookies.
Did you meet or exceed your expectations for your rookie season?
I expected a lot from myself but I didn't say I wanted to have this amount of points or this amount of assists, I just wanted to have an impact on the team and I thought I did a good job of that. But I wanted to make the playoffs. We didn't meet those expectations but I think individually, I exceeded them.
What's something you learned about yourself or your game this season?
I think one of the main things I learned about myself was I always prepare myself. Every situation I've been in since high school, like I've been successful a lot of times and I realize it's always because I prepared myself for it. I think I was able to have the type of season I did this year because of what I did last summer. Im my head at the time I thought I was just working hard, like doing the same stuff I always did. People were constantly telling me 'You need to be eating better, you need to be resting.' I was taking in a lot of information from people that were trying to help me get through the process and get ready for this and I thought I really went hard at it. I worked hard and now that the season is over I can think back and really say that I really prepare myself for things and that's why I'm able to do what I did.
Do you plan on playing in Summer League this year?
I don't know yet.
Is that a decision you leave to the coaches or do you have a say?
If they ask me then I'll probably tell them that if they want me to play, I'll play. But if not then I probably won't be playing.
How much did you benefit from playing in Summer League last season?
It was a confidence booster just to get out there and play against the other guys that got drafted, especially with everybody saying how I went to Weber State, didn't play against great competition. Once I realized that I was able to go out there and play at a high level against them, that's what i was like, I see what it's like. I know the regular season is going to be another level, but I know where I match up against these guys that I got drafted with. So that's pretty much it.
Where do you go for that new chip on your shoulder after accomplishing so much this season?
I mean, I don't think I have to dig for it. I want more for myself and I want more for our team. So as long as I'm getting more out of myself and I'm getting better, I feel like I have a better chance of helping our team go further. I think the stuff that I did this year it was good for me this year. There's a lot more I want to do in my career. This season is over with. It's sad to say because it went by so fast, but I've got to move on from it.
Will there be a time this summer to look back on your historic accomplishment this season?
I will. I have to sit down and kind of replay everything that happened this season because my grandmother, she's aware of everything I do. Every time there's a record or some type of stat, she knows it and she'll call me and tell me and I'll just be like, okay. And I don't mean to act like I don't care about it because I care about it, but it's a good thing then I let it go and she'll get mad at me behind stuff like that. Maybe I do need to sit back and think about what I did.
Is developing a post game important to you?
I think it's something that I can develop. I'm not bigger than a lot of guys that are on the floor but I don't think that has to do anything with posting up. I'd like to, not even if I'm posting up, just getting the ball in that area. I think I can score from that area one-on-one. I think I can make plays from that area so that's definitely something I'd be interested at getting better at.