Damian Lillard is NBA Rookie of the Year
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — It’s unanimous: Damian Lillard is the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.
No, it never was in question.
Lillard, the sixth overall pick in last June’s draft out of Weber State, led all rookies with a 19-point scoring average. He also averaged 6.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds, playing in all 82 games this season.
He broke Stephen Curry’s rookie record for 3-pointers in a season, finishing with 185, and became just the third NBA rookie with at least 1,500 points and 500 assists, following Oscar Robertson and Alan Iverson.
And he swept all six of the league’s Rookie of the Month awards this season.
“I can’t stop smiling,” Lillard said when he was awarded the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy on Wednesday.
Lillard is the fourth player in league history to win the Rookie of the Year unanimously, joining Blake Griffin in 2011, David Robinson in 1990 and Ralph Sampson in 1984.
All season Lillard has been winning accolades from across the league.
“He’s fantastic, really fantastic,” Kobe Bryant said after the two squared off in a game earlier this month. “A lot of players get hot, but he’s got the moves, the patience, intelligence, the balance on his jumpers. He’s the real deal.”
Utah Jazz forward DeMarre Carroll is also a fan.
“He’s a complete player,” Carroll said. “He’s a young guy but you’ve got to give him credit, he plays hard and the team really relies on him. He’s not afraid to take the big shot. The sky’s the limit.”
At the ceremony to announce the award at the Rose Garden Arena, the smartly dressed guard spoke about his upbringing in Oakland and how it shaped him as a hard-working player.
He was disappointed when he broke his foot to start his junior season at Weber State, because he had hopes of jumping to the NBA. He redshirted, and came back the next season to earn All-American honors. He was voted the Big Sky’s Most Valuable Player.
When he let Weber State know he was going pro, Lillard announced his first goal was to win Rookie of the Year.
“I came out and I proved it up,” said the 6-foot-3 guard, who was proclaimed the team’s franchise point guard from the start by Blazers general manager Neil Olshey.
“I know that Damian’s best days are ahead of him,” Olshey said Wednesday. “This is the first step in a bright future.”
Lillard is the fourth Blazer to win the Rookie of the Year award, joining Geoff Petrie (1971), Sidney Wicks (1972) and Brandon Roy (2007).
“The thing you love about him more than anything else is he plays with a chip on his shoulder,” Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey said: “He’s one of those underdogs who went to a small school who is out to prove to everybody he’s an NBA player.”
Lillard has made a point of being active in the Portland community with an anti-bullying campaign. More than 6,000 fans have signed a pledge to help end bullying as part of his “Respect” program.
“He was never satisfied,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said of Lillard. “He had well-deserved accolades throughout the season. He had milestones throughout the season. He was never satisfied.”
Indeed, Lillard was already thinking about what’s next.
“I think the best thing for me is to take it all in,” he said. “Then tomorrow I’ve got to let it go. I’ve got my whole career in front of me.”