PHILADELPHIA -- Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers star, said Monday's ugly performance was a chance to show the world his true self.
Lillard stated that despite having 20 points and 10 assists and shooting 7-for-20 from three-point range, he saw struggles as an opportunity for him to showcase his true character. In a 113-103 loss against the Philadelphia 76ers, Lillard shot 2-for-9 from 3-point range.
"When things are going well, there is a lot to be praised. Many people give you a lot credit. You are highly regarded on social media and TV. Dame had 50, Oh Dame had 60. They are very proud of you. It says more about you when you're going though something.
"And for me, those are the best opportunities. Because I love when I'm riding high, and when it gets smoking hot, people will look at me and say, "We remember when your struggle was and you didn't hide it." It will make people more respectful of your success if they see you deal with failure and struggle.
Lillard said, "So, personally I embrace that. It's not easy. Although it isn't easy, it's part my DNA. This is how I got here. It's not something I am angry about. It frustrates me. It's a challenge that I see, and one I accept. I know I will win.
However, Monday night saw Lillard and Portland individually fail to win again.
Lillard, who came into the game against the76ers having a career low in points (18.3) and field goal percentage (34.9%), as well as 3-point shooting (23.2%), couldn't get moving beyond a seven-point surge in mid-fourth quarter. Philadelphia won the game with a remarkable victory, despite playing without Tobias Harris or Ben Simmons Joel Embiid. Philadelphia also lost Danny Green (left hamstring tightness), in the fourth quarter.
After his team lost, coach Chauncey Bilups stated that he didn't like the team's mentality. I thought they just traded baskets. They complained a lot about no calls and other things, and I was also. It's quite eye-opening but it is just what it is. We are in the same place as the night before. Let's get out there and do better in the second half.
We didn't have it defensively. We were one step behind. It's back-to-back and they were waiting for us. But it's still basketball.
After that, however, the focus was on Lillard's ongoing offensive problems. Billups implemented an offensive plan this year with more ball movement to try and get other players involved after Lillard spent nine seasons playing for Terry Stotts (the coach who gave him the most effective offense).
"Yeah. Billups spoke out about the offensive changes that affected Lillard and his longtime running mate CJ McCCollum. They have both done a great job of trying to do the right thing. Dame is clearly being treated the same way by defenses. He's being trapped, but he's doing a great job of getting out of it. We don't often make teams pay for this."
Lillard was not about to make excuses.
Lillard stated that he has no excuses and doesn't have any injuries after a stomach problem he had with Team USA during the Olympics. "I don’t know what you want me to talk about it. My mind is clear, I prepared well for the season.
"I don't have any reason to do it. I have no one to turn to. I don't shoot the ball well. I believe that if we want to have a successful team, we need to shoot the ball better. I know I will shoot the ball better, I know how it's going look and have done it many times.
Lillard was one of the NBA's 75 most outstanding players and is currently in his 10th NBA season. He got many clean looks at the basket, just like he did Sunday night in Charlotte's loss. In that game, he shot 5-for-20 from the field, and 2-for-14 from deep. He looked almost disbelieving at times Monday. There was a moment in the second quarter where he sat down on his knees after yet another missed basket.
He acknowledged that there are moments of frustration but he says he doesn't let it stop him from being happy about an off-shooting night or two. He knows things will turn around eventually.
He said, "Honestly, it's really not as difficult as it would appear." That's how I answer it. It's frustration that I find the easiest way to describe it. It's almost like you come off with a clean face and then it doesn't go in.
It's more frustrating than anything because of your expectations. It's important to be able to stay level and keep your mind right. It is important to keep your head level, keep your mind clear and your mind sharp. My focus is on solutions, and I don't mind doing anything crazy to find them. Uncertainty and lack of trust in my work are two things that I do not like. I practice, show up, and I follow my routine. I take care of my body, get my shots, and I'm sharp in everything I do.
"Failure is part of life, sometimes it's a part. Coming up short is part of it. I don’t know what to say except that I accept it. You know what I mean. It's not something I will accept. I will keep taking the same shots, and I will keep being aggressive. But, you have to accept it as part of the process. You've also got to believe in yourself and continue doing things that can help you succeed. That's exactly what I did.
Philadelphia is still waiting to find out what will happen to Simmons, who is currently out indefinitely for personal reasons. The long-standing wish of 76ers fans was that Simmons would be the cornerstone to a huge trade package to bring Lillard and Embiid here.
The fans booed Lillard and the four other Blazers before the game. However, when Lillard was introduced, the fans erupted in cheers.
Lillard stated that "Honestly, it doesn’t shift my focus in any way." "They booed everyone during the starting lineups and cheered when they saw me through. That was very funny to me. This is what professional sports are all about. It's enjoyable, it's public, so I don't get too fussy or act like I don't know what it is.
"I know what it is, and what it's all about. I am a Trail Blazer. I am grateful for their love. I appreciate their respect and their desire. However, I am 10 toes tall in Rip City and I have said it repeatedly. Tonight I laughed about it at the start lineups.
There were two brief "We want Lillard!" chants during the game. Chants.
Lillard replied, "Yeah, that's what I heard," before adding, "It's the City of Brotherly Love," I guess. They showed their brother love. They showed me love, but that was all.
Billups also admitted that he had heard them.
Billups stated, "I mean... I wasn't surprised at any," "When they said, We want Lillard', I was saying, ‘We do, too.
"I understand it and I get it. Philly has a huge fan base. They don't mince words. That's something I have always appreciated about Philly."