We shouldn’t compare Damian Lillard’s job to a sweat shop worker’s, but the Portland Trailblazers point guard logged extensive overtime in 2012-13.
Lillard averaged 38.6 minutes per game (tied with Kobe Bryant for second-most in the NBA) and led the league with 3,167 total minutes. The long hours took its toll on the reigning Rookie of the Year as his shooting percentages from the floor and charity stripe were all below season averages by the month of April.
“Sometimes when you’re out there (playing) so many minutes, your body can wear down,” Lillard admitted to USA TODAY Sports. “So you’re not always productive at the highest levels because you might wear down.”
Lillard’s fatigue not only deflated his own game but the team’s too. The Trail Blazers finished the season on a 13-game losing streak, and execution down the stretch was majorly inconsistent.
Coincidentally, Portland’s bench was last in the NBA in scoring and other categories, which isn’t a mystery when you’re trotting out Ronnie Price, Nolan Smith and Sasha Pavlovic. General manager Neil Olshey made his top priority restocking the pine in the offseason.
Thankfully for Lillard, reinforcements at his position are in the form of steady veterans Mo Williams and Earl Watson and 2013 lottery selection C.J. McCollum. Williams (a starter last season for the Utah Jazz) and McCollum will vie for significant roles in the rotation.
It’s common today to see heavy reliance on an individual through the regular season come back to be a fatal mistake by the playoffs. It’s now up to head coach Terry Stotts to use the depth at his disposal rather than cave to keeping Lillard on the court for the sake of short-term benefits. The 23-year-old plays more minutes than LeBron James, but the Miami Heat seem to have an idea for these things.
Photo Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press