Damian Lillard sits on a bleacher inside the Portland Trail Blazers’ practice facility and romances about his hometown.
He loves Oakland. Most of his family still lives there, and the large clan will occupy entire rows inside Oracle Arena tonight when the Blazers play the Golden State Warriors. Still, it’s a bit strange to hear Lillard describe his hometown as “cool,” when you consider that the body bag count makes it one of the most dangerous cities in America.
But please consider that Lillard would not be relaxing inside this suburban basketball sanctuary as one of the top rookies in the NBA had it not been for his home sweet home.
His is a gritty town. The football team wears black and the Hells Angels spawned here. The police force creates more scandal than a Shonda Rhimes production and has been supervised by federal judge to wean the incessant corruption.
“Oakland streets are no joke. It’s a little different for us coming out of there,” says native and retired NBA great Gary Payton. “(Lillard’s) got so much dog in him and that’s what I love about him. That’s what he carries from Oakland in his game to the NBA now.”