Damian Lillard may not have been voted into the All-Star Game as a starter, but he will still be the one putting on the biggest show during the weekend’s festivities.
In fact, Lillard will be making history during All-Star Weekend as the first player to ever take part in five events. He will participate in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest and the actual All-Star Game.
Lillard told Sam Amick of USA Today he saw it as a unique opportunity that he wanted to take advantage of:
A lot of people don't get the opportunity. So I just felt like it was something that had never been done, and I'm capable of doing all the things that need to be done in all the competitions, so I figured why not go out and be the first one to do everything and get that experience?
Lillard played his college ball at Weber State, and most of the Portland Trail Blazers’ games come on after NBA fans on the East Coast are asleep, so participating in so many events will give him the chance to demonstrate his versatile skill set.
He isn’t much of an in-game dunker, but he has the athleticism and vertical jump to compete with the likes of Paul George and John Wall. His better than 40 percent mark from downtown will clearly help Lillard’s cause in the three-point contest.
Lillard will test his skills against loaded fields and will be part of the first Dunk Contest to feature three All-Stars since Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler dueled it out in 1988.
Will Lillard win the Slam Dunk Contest?
This isn’t the first time that Lillard has tested himself in a number of different events. During the NBA Draft Combine in 2012, he was the only one of the top 10 prospects who participated in all the drills available without fear that he would hurt his draft standing.
Lillard also had an answer to those who feared he would wear out his legs competing in so many events at the All-Star Game, via Amick of USA Today:
The skills competition takes two minutes on the court, the dunk contest maybe will be three or four minutes on the court, and three-point shooting is about two minutes. And it's not like the rookie-sophomore game is a real regular season game, so I mean I'm looking at maybe an hour total of actual activity with all five things. People think there's more energy being exerted than there actually is. It's really not that much when you think about the time that you actually spend doing it.
Ideally for Lillard, putting on this type of show during All-Star Weekend will earn him more recognition for his overall abilities heading into the season’s second half.
He is averaging 20.6 points, 5.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds a game and has an impressive PER of 18.8, per ESPN.com.
As ESPN Stats & Info points out, Lillard has also been one of the most clutch players in the entire NBA this year:
Only LeBron James has a better FG pct in clutch time than Damian Lillard this season (min. 40 FGA). Lillard is an All-Star for 1st time.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 31, 2014
While winning all of these events may not be deemed as “clutch” considering they are simply exhibitions put on for the entertainment of the fans, it would be just the type of show that Lillard is capable of demonstrating with his versatile skill set.
He is one of the NBA’s best up-and-coming players and will prove as much during All-Star Weekend.
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