Lillard Still Plans To Work With Payton, But Don't Make A Big Deal Out Of It
Damian Lillard has had a busy offseason. He's traveled to Italy for the NBA Schools Cup Final
and to China for a promotional tour
with adidas. He represented the Trail Blazers at the Draft Lottery
. He practiced with Portland's summer league squad
, though he didn't play in any games, and then stuck around for a four-day Team USA mini-camp
So Lillard has done a lot in his first NBA offseason. What he hasn't done, though, is workout with NBA Hall of Famer and fellow Oakland product Gary Payton.
Not that it isn't going to happen eventually. There's still plenty of time for Payton, arguably the best defensive point guard in NBA history, to school Lillard on some of the finer points of perimeter defending. And the fact that they're both represented by the same agency and have a mutual interest in working together leads one to believe that the two will find time between now and the start of training camp to get in some one-on-one instruction.
But that doesn't mean you should make too big a deal out of it. Lillard says that, while he's grateful to take in any teaching Payton would like to impart, he knows coaching isn't going to be enough to make a noticeable difference in his skills on defense. Any improvement is going to have to start from within.
"I'm sure there's some tricks that (Payton) might have done, some slick stuff he could get away with that he could teach me that I could learn," said Lillard at the Team USA mini-camp. "But at the end of the day I think it's more about me, how I feel about it. That's why I think I've already made adjustments in improving my defense by myself because it's just about pride and how bad you want to do it."
It has become fashionable among some NBA players to spend part of their offseason working with former players who possessed the skills that said current player is trying to improve. The most obvious example is NBA big men, a list that recently includes Dwight Howard, Amar'e Stoudemire and Joakim Noah, working with Hakeem Olajuwon on improving various facets of their respective games. How much improvement, be it perceived or otherwise, can be attributed to these training sessions is impossible say, but Lillard's guess is that it's a bit overblown.
"I do think some of that stuff is overrated," said Lillard. "Hakeem Olajuwon, I'm sure he can help you with a lot of stuff and I'm sure (Payton) knows a lot about defense, but a lot of it is pride and how much you're willing to sit down and lock up your man. That's how GP was. He just had that drive where like 'I'm going to sit here and you're not going to score on me. I'm not going to let you kill me.'
"So I think when I get the chance to work with (Payton) it will be helpful, but I think a lot of that stuff is, I wouldn't say all talk, but I think a lot of it is you get more credit because you go see GP or Hakeem Olajuwon."
Which, apparently, isn't the kind of credit Lillard is looking for.