After Setting It As A Goal Two Seasons Ago, Lillard Still Striving For MVP

Before the start of the 2016-17 season, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard made what some would consider a bold declaration. The season prior, Lillard had led the Trail Blazers to a playoff berth and a first-round series victory in a year that saw the team replaced four out of five starters, and coming off that expectation-smashing campaign, the point guard set his sights on the most sought-after individual accomplishment in the NBA.“I want to be the MVP,” Lillard said. “I think if we come out and do the things that we’re capable of doing as a team and win games, I think that means that my performance will be at a level of the MVP.”Of course, that goal went unrequited. The Trail Blazers struggled on the first three months of that season, losing 10 out of 11 at one point, and needed a furious late-season rally to sneak into the 2017 postseason as the eight-seed. And while Lillard turned in a qualify performance that year, averaging 27.0 points on 44 percent shooting from the field, 5.9 assists and 4.9 rebounds in 75 games, you don’t take home the MVP trophy on a team that struggled to go .500. But two years later, that goal still remains. While he hasn’t really made mention of it since, even after becoming just the third Trail Blazer in franchise history to win All-NBA First-Team honors for the 2017-18 season, Lillard is still motivated by the possibility of taking home Most Valuable Player.“If I don't accomplish it, it don't change,” said Lillard of striving to win MVP. “If it doesn't happen then I'm going to keep going for it. That doesn't change.”Lillard’s reasons for setting MVP as his ultimate individual goal are two-fold. First and most simply, it’s an incredibly difficult award to win, making it a good aspiration for a player of Lillard’s caliber. “That's hard to get,” said Lillard. “I'm not speaking like 'Ah, they don't give us credit,’ it’s just that nobody looks to our team and says 'They're going to be one of the best teams' or they don't look to me and say 'He's going to be the MVP.' I think that's part of it.”The other motivation? He wants to prove his value. While he readily admits that he isn’t likely to ever be the most talented player in the NBA, he wants to show he does provide a value to the Portland Trail Blazers is on par with that of the very best. “There's a lot of guys who are much more talented than I am. Then there's guys who are much more gifted than I am,” said Lillard. “Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Greek Freak (Giannis Antetokounmpo), they have things that I'll never have. But I do know what my value is to a team and what I bring to a team. So I would like to lead my team to that level and perform at that level to show my value, because I know that I'm not the talent that some of these guys are and I know that I'm not as gifted as some of these guys, but my value is up there.”