While there wasn’t much suspense around whether or not Damian Lillard would be named an All-Star last season, there wasn’t even the slightest hint of expectancy this season. After losing the tiebreaker for the second starting guard spot in the West to Luka Doncic, there was no doubt that Lillard, in the midst of an MVP-caliber season, would be one of the first players selected as an All-Star reserve by the Western Conference coaches.
And that’s exactly what happened.
The 6-3 guard in his ninth season out or Weber State was named to his sixth All-Star team during the announcement on TNT prior to Tuesday’s game versus the Nuggets in Denver.
“Our team is having success, I’m having a good season, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do,” said Lillard. “I think when you have a real impact on your team winning games, this is what you get rewarded with.”
Lillard joins Clyde Drexler as the only Trail Blazers to be named to the All-Star team six times (Drexler was selected eight times) and is one of two players -- Anthony Davis is the other -- from the Western Conference who has been selected for the midseason exhibition in the last four seasons.
With both the starters and reserves now selected, the NBA will hold the All-Star “draft” on March 4. Rather than breaking up the teams by conference, the Lakers’ LeBron James, the top vote-getter in the West, will pick his team with Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, James’ counterpart in the East, selecting the other. Lillard doesn’t mind too much which team he ends up on, though he wouldn’t mind a reunion with the West captain.
“Every year that they’ve done it I’ve been on LeBron’s team,” said Lillard. “I think it’s pretty cool that he picks me every year, I get to play with Bron every year in the All-Star Game cause he pick me. He’s the best player of our generation, the greatest player of our generation. I’m a Trail Blazer, I’ve been here my whole career, so just to have the opportunity to go out there and mix it up with the rest of the best players in the league and rock out with Bron a little bit is always fun.”
Lillard joins the likes of Anthony Davis, Paul George, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell as West reserves. Lillard said he thought the fans and coaches got it right, except for one notable omission.
“You saw a lot of guys make it for the first time, you saw a lot of guys that I’ve seen there over the years. It was disappointing not to see Devin Booker on there,.” said Lillard, had to sit out last year’s game due to injury and was replaced by Suns guard. “They’ve had a great season, obviously they blew us out last night, but they’ve been an up and down team over the years and this year they’ve taken off with Chris Paul. Obviously Chris Paul is who he is but I definitely think Devin Booker should have had a spot on that roster. To me, that’s out of control. Come on, that’s crazy.”
Now Lillard will travel to Atlanta during the All-Star break to take part of the event at State Farm Arena on March 7. While some players have voiced reservations about holding an All-Star game during a pandemic -- and with good reason -- Lillard said that if they’re already playing close to a regular-season schedule, they might as well hold the other events that take place during a typical NBA season as well.
“The way I see it is we’ve been traveling and playing NBA games like a regular season without fans and All-Star Weekend is typically a part of the season and I assumed it would be a part of it now, so I’m gonna go about it the same way,” said Lillard, who also mentioned he’s confident in the NBA’s ability to hold the All-Star Game safely. “Obviously it won’t be as much of a spectacle because of the limited contact but we’re carrying our season on like a normal season and that’s a part of a normal season, so I’m going to carry it the same way.”