The Portland Trail Blazers had just suffered their second tough loss to a top competitor on back-to-back nights, and Damian Lillard stood in the visitor’s locker room and discussed what lay ahead for the Blazers.
“I think the break will be good for us,” Lillard said. “Kind of come back fresh, and ready to turn up."
Except “break” and “fresh” are the only two things NOT on the schedule for Lillard over the weekend. He has an unprecedented five events tap: the Rising Stars game Friday night, the skills challenge, dunk contest and three-point shootout Saturday night and the All-Star game Sunday. That doesn’t even count all of the media sessions, community service events and promotional appearances that eat up players’ days.
So what’s Lillard’s energy-conservation approach? There is none.
“I’m going to jump in,” Lillard said. “I’m going to go out there in every event to compete. Most of all, I’m just going to go out there and have fun and enjoy it.
It’s a great opportunity for me. A lot of fans have been tweeting me about it and are excited about it. I’m going to go out there and do it with all my heart.
“I’m not going to do it halfhearted and act like I’m too cool for it. I’m going to do the skills and the three and the dunk, I’m playing both games. I’ll be fine.
“I think I have a chance to win all of them. If I didn’t think I had a chance to compete, I wouldn’t even put my name in it.”
We'll see if he sounds as enthusiastic on Sunday night. Blake Griffin had a similar slate during his rookie foray into All-Star weekend in 2011: the Rising Stars game, the dunk contest and the All-Star game. And then there was the Clippers’ schedule leading into the All-Star break.
“We had just come off a five-game road trip,” Griffin said. “[Wednesday] was our last game, in Minnesota. We flew back here, then everything started for me Thursday morning and felt like it went non-stop.
"Every situation is different for every guy. That was also my first year, playing 38 minutes and still trying to figure out everything.”
In addition, Griffin learned the night of the game against the Timberwolves that his close friend Wilson Holloway had died of complications from Hodgkin's lymphoma. After the break, the Clippers went on the road to Oklahoma City, Griffins’s first game back in the state where he grew up and went to college. It's hard to imagine a more physically and emotionally draining stretch for a player. And it's worth noting that Griffin's scoring and rebounding averages and shooting percentages were all lower after the All-Star break than before.
Griffin had one piece of advice for Lillard: “Just get your rest when you can…because that second half is a beast, especially when you’re making a playoff push.”