Damian Lillard Talks NBA Hiatus, Upcoming Mixtape, More with Ernie Johnson

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 9, 2020

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 10: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers shoots free throws during the game on March 10 , 2020 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard spoke with Turner Sports' Ernie Johnson via video call on  Wednesday and covered a host of topics.

Namely, the two spoke about fatherhood, Lillard's daily routine during the NBA's suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his upcoming mixtape, how he landed at Weber State and more.

     

Stay-at-Home Dad

Johnson started the call by asking what Lillard's been up to during the day, and he said that he spends much of his time taking care of his two-year-old son (who later joined in on the call) with his fiancee, Kay'la Hanson.

Lillard said he hasn't had a real workout since the NBA banned players from using their team facilities or other third-party facilities during the pandemic. However, he does have a court outside his house where he can shoot, as well as a fitness center where he does more conditioning and lifting. 

Johnson then asked whether the month-like hiatus had felt like a year, and Lillard answered affirmatively. He noted that he hasn't seen much court time at all since mid-February after missing All-Star weekend and six regular-season games afterward because of a groin strain.

But now, Lillard says, is "daddy daycare time."

Like many others, Lillard has watched a lot of Netflix during his downtime and recommends All American, The Stranger and Ozark.

    

The Blazers

Lillard said he speaks with his teammates and coaches often, referencing video-chat sessions with backcourt mate CJ McCollum and texting back and forth with head coach Terry Stotts. The Blazers players also have a group chat.

Johnson then asked Lillard to gauge the team's temperature as far as how they felt during this uncertain time with the season suspended.

Lillard said some guys are optimistic about a restart, but others are worried about how the suspension may affect their upcoming free agency next summer.

Some also say how much they miss the game, but Lillard said his team has ultimately gone through a wide range of emotions.

As far as Lillard is concerned, he's using the opportunity as a potential head start for next season in case the Blazers have played their final game, saying they don't know what's going to happen.

         

A Return Structure

Johnson asked Lillard what his preference would be as far as a season structure if and when the 2019-20 campaign comes back, and the point guard preferred to play out the remaining slate.

With the ninth-place Blazers just 3.5 games behind the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies for the Western Conference's final playoff spot, there's significant incentive for Portland to run through its final 16 regular-season games.

"I think it's only right to play it out. ... Not only are we the nine seed, we have one of the easier schedules in our final 15, 16 games, and the team in the eighth spot has the toughest. So, we're looking at that like, how can you just go straight into the playoffs when we're in the position we're in and they're up against what they're up against?"

Lillard said he'd only need about a week to be game ready but wondered if there could be a lot of bad basketball upon the league's return given that players have been away from team facilities.

        

A New Mixtape

Lillard (a.k.a Dame D.O.L.L.A.) also announced that he has a mixtape coming out in the "next week or two" and that he has a collaboration going with Shaquille O'Neal, who dueled with the point guard in what Lillard called "lyrical sparring" this past year.

Lillard did say there was no issue between the two, as clearly evidenced by the fact that they're performing a song together.

         

How Lillard Landed At Weber State

Weber State wasn't known as a college basketball hotspot before Lillard arrived, but the point guard knew of the school because he used the "Create a Player" feature on the NCAA March Madness video games and placed himself on Weber State.

Turns out video game came to life because Weber State ended up being the first school to offer Lillard a scholarship after seeing him dominate an AAU game in Dallas.

Lillard said he didn't know much about Ogden, Utah, where Weber State is located, but that he trusted the school's coaches and most notably Jazz assistant coach Johnny Bryant, who knew Lillard from their time in their hometown of Oakland, California.

     

Tattoos, Family and Faith

Johnson asked Lillard which tattoo was his most meaningful one, and he pointed to a sleeve on his left arm, which features his parents, uncle and grandparents. Lillard called it the "Mount Rushmore" of the most meaningful people in his life.

Johnson then asked about Lillard's Psalm 37 tattoo and how much faith plays in his daily life.

Lillard said that the tattoo's inspiration was from a sermon he attended that he was particularly moved by. He said that he's been going to more church services over the past year and attending more Bible study group chats, and that his faith has particularly brought him peace recently.

      

Coming Through in the Clutch

Lillard has ended two playoff series with buzzer-beating three-pointers: a 2014 first-round win over the Houston Rockets and a 2019 first-round victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Lillard explained what goes through his mind in those spots: "Usually when I'm in those moments, I'm telling myself I'm about to come up big. ... It's just like, in my mind, I'm like, 'I'm about to win the game' or 'I'm about to end the game.'"

Lillard also noted that he's calm because he knows that he's been in the work on and off the court to do the best to his abilities, and for that reason, he doesn't get affected by a fear of failure because he knows he's done his best.

In other words, Lillard says he's given himself the best chance to be successful while eschewing any thoughts about negative outcomes.

     

From Way Downtown

Lillard also tossed in a remark that he feels comfortable from pulling up from half-court. He already has a habit of doing so from the outer edges of a half-court logo (a third-court shot, more or less), but Lillard said he warned Stotts that he's going pull back from half-court in a game.

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