PORTLAND — The player introductions concluded, and Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard walked to center court alone for his special moment.
Before tipoff, Lillard was recognized as the KIA NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month. Joined by Blazers general manager Neil Olshey and a representative from the car company, Lillard raised the award that he earned last month.
Through 16 games stretching from the season opener on Halloween night into November, Lillard averaged 18.4 points, 5.9 assists and 1.38 steals — the best among all rookies.
Lillard became only the third Blazer to win the honor, following Arvydas Sabonis and Brandon Roy.
Nothing to see here
Terry Stotts matched up against his first coaching mentor George Karl on Thursday but before you start humming the classic song by Peaches and Herb, understand that the pair have met plenty of times on NBA enemy lines.
Reunited and it feels so … blah.
”The newness has worn off,” Stotts said before the game. “When I was in Atlanta and played against the Bucks my first year, there were unusual feelings but time has passed so some of the novelty has worn off.”
Stotts worked alongside Karl during coaching stops in Seattle and Milwaukee before leaving in 2002 to take another assistant job in Atlanta. Later that same season, Stotts was elevated to head coach and first went against Karl — who was still with the Bucks at the time — in January 2003.
The two have since matched coaching wits many times, and even have met already during the preseason.
“If I’m going against George or Dwane Casey (Toronto Raptors) or Rick Carlisle (Dallas Mavericks) you want to win,” Stotts said, mentioning his coaching friends. “My main concern is about my team and how we’re doing and what we have to do to win the game and what we have to do to get better.”
Aldridge sits, Smith stays away
The injured LaMarcus Aldridge (left ankle sprain) sat at the end of the bench Thursday, while backup point guard Nolan Smith did not even make the trip to the arena.
Smith — down and out with bronchitis — has not been around the team since Tuesday when he was sent home early from practice. Before the game, Smith tweeted his remorse.
“I hate being sick! I’ll be supporting my brothers from the couch tonight!!”
In a text to The Columbian, Smith stated: “I’m almost better I think.”