Portland Trail Blazers star point guard Damian Lillard spent much of the offseason denying rumors that he's seeking to be traded. Now that the team is together for its first practices of the year, Lillard is happily focusing on moving forward.
But this year will be different from previous seasons, as Lillard will be playing under new Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups. When asked about his first impressions of Billups, Lillard said he appreciates his coaching style.
"It’s a player’s mind. Smarter instead of harder," Lillard said during Tuesday's media availability. "Like, ‘Why would you do this when you could be doing this?’ He’s thinking the game like a point guard."
Billups was hired in June after Portland parted ways with Terry Stotts, who coached the team since Lillard's first season in the NBA in 2012-13. Stotts coached the Blazers to eight consecutive playoff appearances, but the team was eliminated in the first round five times, including this past season against the Denver Nuggets.
Lillard is widely regarded as one of the best point guards in the NBA. A six-time All-Star, Lillard ranked third in the league last season with 28.8 points per game.
Lillard also helped lead the United States men's basketball team to a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics, ranking third on the team in minutes (24.0) and fourth in points (11.2).
Lillard revealed Tuesday that he took 20 days off from training after the Olympics. He said he feels better to start this training camp than he has in previous years thanks to the extra rest.
"I need to prioritize," Lillard said. "I'm not 24 no more."
The Blazers retained the main core of last year's team with a few additions. Lillard's backcourt partner CJ McCollum returns after averaging a career-high 23.1 points last season in 47 games.
Portland added big man Larry Nance Jr. to bolster its frontcourt depth after losing center Enes Kanter in free agency. Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is also expected to be healthy after being limited to just 45 games over the past two seasons.