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Thursday, December 27, 2012
Open season

By Chris Palmer
ESPN The Magazine

Lillard
Damian Lillard leads all rookies with 6.7 assists per game.

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Chris Palmer: You're quickly developing a reputation for being unflappable. Where did that trait come from?
Damian Lillard: That's just the type of person I am. There's no reason to be scared out there. It's just a basketball game, so I never get worried or rattled by the situation. If you're going to win, you're going to win. If you're going to lose, you're going to lose. I want to win games, but I'm not affected by any situation. My emotions go up and down like everybody else's, but I don't feel the need to show the world.

Palmer: Are you afraid of hitting that rookie wall?
Lillard: I've talked to my coaches about that. I'm only 22, so it's not a physical thing. It has a lot to do with teams starting to figure you out, scouting you and having a plan for the next time they see you. For example, when I come off the pick-and-roll, teams now want me to give up the ball, so they'll blitz me.

Palmer: How comfortable are you with being a leader?
Lillard: Well, I'm not just going to come in and tell people what to do, but the more I see things, the more I speak up. And if I'm working hard and listening, I'll gain respect from people who have more experience than I do.

Palmer: You're leading all rookies with almost 19 points and more than six assists a night. Are guys more likely to listen to you because of those great numbers?
Lillard: Yes, it makes it a lot easier, because I'm contributing.

Palmer: Where's your comfort zone on the floor?
Lillard: The pick-and-roll. I like the feeling of having those reads to make -- the option to score, pass or look off defenders.

Palmer: You've been a lifelong NBA fan. Got a favorite player?
Lillard: LeBron James.

Palmer: You play the Heat on Jan. 10. Are you looking forward to meeting him?
Lillard: I'm definitely looking forward to being on the same floor with him, but I'm past the fascination stage.

Palmer: The next night, you visit your hometown Warriors. Any nerves?
Lillard: Oh, I'm excited about it. When I was in grade school, my family had season tickets when they had Antawn Jamison, Jason Richardson and Mookie Blaylock. Our seats were in the lower bowl, 20 rows up. I was at one of Jamison's 50-point games. After the games, I'd go home and act like I was one of them when I played on my court. But I can't be too emotional about it now and caught up with who's coming -- especially since there are way more people there than I could ever get tickets for.

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