True Hoops

True Hoops

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Point Guard Project - Damian Lillard

Welcome to the sixth edition of the Point Guard Project.

Past participants:
PGP1- John Lucas
PGP2 - Luke Ridnour
PGP3 - Jrue Holiday
PGP4 - Ricky Rubio
PGP5 - Royal Ivey

This time we're joined by Damian Lillard

The PGP questions:

1) Who did you watch play growing up? And whose game did you try to emulate?

2) What was your first memorable point guard match-up, when you first got into the league?

3) What is your definition for the job of a point guard?

4) How do you determine when to shoot vs. when to pass?

5) What is a typical workout for you like?

6) Do you have any words of advice for young aspiring point guards?

In case you don't know Lillard yet, he has to be the early frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.
He is currently averaging 18.9 points and 6.4 assists a game, which is first among rookies in both categories. And beyond rookies - he's ranks 5th in scoring for all point guards in the league.
In a recent win over the Spurs he put up 29 points, 6 assists, and 7 rebounds.

Damian is listed as 6'3" and 195 ibs. and was drafted 6th overall by Portland. From Oakland, Lillard played college ball at Weber State (in Utah) - where he averaged 24.5 points a game his last year.

Mr Lillard, welcome to the Point Guard Project:

Summary of answers:

1) Grew watching Chuancey Billups, Stephon Marbury (he really liked Marbury), and Gilbert Arenas.

2) First memorable point guard match-up: Chris Paul. A lot of stuff he could take from him being on the court and seeing him as a leader and as a point guard.

3) Definition for the job of a point guard: Lead and make everyone else's job easier.

4) When to shoot vs. pass: More simple than people think - especially when playing with the people he's played with. Getting others involved early and getting them going is what you need to do, so the defense loosens up on you then everything comes easier as far as scoring the ball (which some doctors may diagnose as a pass first and take what the defense gives you point guard).

5) Typical workout: It's different from summer time than in the season.
In season: a lot of pick and roll stuff, a lot spot ups (no number of takes in particular), change speed stuff, floaters, and pull up jumpers.
Summer: Just try to add stuff. Definitely the middle game - floaters, mid range pull up jumpers, different finishes around the rim. And just try to get in better shape and improve everything else.

6) For aspiring point guards: Work on every part of your game so you'll be ready for every level you move up in. College, every level is tougher. So it's important to work on every part of your game.

Was it me or did Lillard's responses seem well beyond his years and designation as a rookie?

Perhaps for good reason. Lillard is 22 years old and went to Weber State for 4 years. That's kind of a rarity these days (Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, & John Wall - all number picks as point guards - were all one and done in college). Certainly Lillard's age and college experience has something to do with how he handles himself both on and off the court.

One subtlety, which speaks volumes of his maturity and professionalism, is how he talked up his teammates and mentioned that because of them it's easy to be a point guard ("when you've had the teammates I've had"). I'm sure that would make his teammates feel good. And guess what? Instilling confidence and positivity is absolutely part of being a good point guard - even if doing so while speaking in a random interview!

There are also a few things I found interesting with regards to his maturity and style of play.

Of the players he mentioned he watched growing up, two out of three of them were scoring point guards (another shot out to Steph!). Perhaps non-coincidentely this fits his mold, being the 5th highest scoring point guard in the league. However it's Ironic that despite following and fitting the mold of a scoring point guard, Lillard defined himself (with my help) as a pass first point guard.

And that really is something to consider. There is a difference between being a scoring point (Rose and Westbrook) that gets assists when the defense helps and a point that runs the team then takes what the defense gives them. You'll notice that for the latter (Lillard's answer for when to pass vs. shoot) I responded with "that's the first time I've heard that response."
It's true.

I seem to recall hearing a lot of "always be aggressive", or more passive: "if someone's open, give them the ball." Here you have a talented scorer saying that he actively looks to get others involved and then makes the defense pay when they play off of him (maybe like Paul and Williams - in contrast Rondo and Rubio seem to be pass first, pass second point guards). This is not an easy thing to do, even for established point guards. But already as a rookie, Lillard seems to recognize this is what a point guard should do - use your talents to make others better and be good enough to score when needed. And he seems to already be adept at it. It will be interesting to see how this changes if and when Lillard becomes the best player on his team.

As impressive was Lillard's description of his works outs.
(By the way, if you want to see one of his Draft workouts, take a look).
Is there anything more important for a point guard than being able to master the pick and roll? And in turn being able to make the mid-range/pull jumpers coming off a screen? Or how about being able to make spot up jumpers - you know in case you throw the ball down to LaMarcus Aldridge in the post who then kicks it back out to you when he is double teamed. Let's not forget different ways to finish around the rim (not just dunks) and floaters in the lane in case you don't want to challenge the trees at the rim.

And ah yes, my favorite advice for a point guard: change speeds.
Did he get this from Steph???
When Jason Williams got into the league, Steph told him (as Rumeal Robinson told him) that you can't play only at one speed - even if it is fast. You need to change speeds.
By changing speeds, you actually become faster and always have the defense on it's heels. One speed makes you predictable. Two speeds makes you intractable.
In other words: slow down before you speed up. Or if you prefer, hesitate and go.
In any event, the fact that Lillard alludes to this is amazing.

And finally, how about:
"work on every part of your game so you'll be ready for every level you move up in?"
May I paraphrase???
Always try to make yourself better, so you can be prepared for the challenges you'll face in the future.
Great words of advice!

Much thanks to Damian Lillard for his time!
I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Point Guard Project!
Stay tuned for more!

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