Originally written on Oregon Sports News  |  Last updated 10/25/14
Two words: Damian Lillard. If you see Damian and the resurgent Portland Trail Blazers ever scrap their way into a championship run, remember this playoff season as the beginning. By watching and noting the differences between the great western point guards as the play each other over a series, Lillard logs where they break down, or more importantly where he will break them. This man is witness to the best guards in the NBA, just like you. He learned their moves, what they like to do on the court, and paid tuition with the nicks and knocks he took from them all season. Now he watches Russell Westbrook fly like other fans of the game, except he's been in the air with him. He's watching Chris Paul make balls disappear from Mike Conley. Does he see some of himself in Andre Miller fourteen years in the league? He could since Miller's wearing a Blazer uniform on his wiki page. When Stephen Curry launches a long ball, you don't say to yourself, "Set some more records, Stephie, and I'll take them like I did your rookie three point record." Damian Lillard doesn't either, but he could. If he spoke French, he'd say, "Vous êtes étonnant," (You are amazing) watching Tony Parker. Everyone does. If he watched the Lakers he wouldn't say "Steve Nash and Steve Blake are too hurt and too old." But you can. These playoffs deliver invaluable lessons to a young Blazer who spent enough college time in Ogden, Utah. He's no one and done head case after three years, along with a medical redshirt after a foot injury. Call it the mountain air, but point guards seem to thrive there. After all, if the State of Utah is known for anything, it's Utah Jazz Hall of Fame member John Stockton. When you look at him, along with Deron Williams and Lillard, it's pretty clear there's an edge. What could Lillard learn from Stockton? You can't coach a guy to play every game in 17 of their 19 seasons. Or get their team to the playoffs every year. Or win two Olympic gold medals. Maybe Lillard, with his strong connection to the Beehive State, will bring some Stockton to Portland. But what? Bring whatever Stockton did to be included as one of the 50 Dirties Players in NBA History. BleacherReport.com even uses his picture as the feature image in the article, so you know John's a bad man even if he looks like Charlie Chaplin's brother. Bring the dark arts of professional sports to the game, where a sweet-faced player like Chris Paul swings the ball on a quick pivot. You don't see the hit until his defender checks for blood. He doesn't have to do it that way, but it's how he says, "Man's Game." Bring the borderline screen / block that leaves a bruise away from the ball. And if it's not too much, bring another NBA title to Portland. Is it too soon to ask? During the 2013 playoffs, root for Damian. It's okay to say "You'd never do that to Lillard," when Paul makes the Grizz dance, and "You're lucky Lillard isn't in the game" when Tony slices the Lakers to pieces. Just not too loud.
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