Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was an assistant for Team USA this summer while Damian Lillard was in camp competing for a spot on the team.
Thibodeau said he loves “everything” about Lillard’s game while Dame said Thibodeau was coach with whom he worked with the most.
“I knew that it wouldn’t be necessary for me to go out there and try to be who I am for my team. He kind of made me excited about the opportunity to go out there and play defense,” Lillard said of Thibodeau. “Every time I checked in for Team USA I was picking up full court playing defense. He was a part of what made me excited to do that, to want to play defense and be a part of it.
“He can really shoot and he’s great in the pick and roll. I just like his demeanor too. He doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low. Just tough. Not one of those guys pounding his chest, just getting it done out there,” Thibodeau said. “I think the biggest thing is when you measure the winning.”
“He was my kind of guy. Straight to the point, strong,” Lillard said of Thibodeau’s abilities as a motivator. “He spoke up, he wasn’t afraid to call you out. That was one of the better parts of my experience. I probably related to him the most out of the coaches that were there.
Specifically, Thibodeau says Lillard’s technique and effort on defense has improved.
“(He’s) into the ball, body position, making more than one effort. I think he’s stronger, all those things. I think experience, he’s one of those guys, he’ll continue to grow,” Thibodeau said.
Barton working through struggles
Without CJ McCollum, others on the Trail Blazers bench will have to step up. To many, Will Barton is the first name that comes to mind.
After being the lone bright spot in last year’s playoff series against the Spurs, Barton has struggled from the field in limited minutes.
“It’s been difficult. You come in with so many expectations for yourself. You did as lot of good things last season, you had a good training camp and things like that. You feel like you’re going to play more and it goes back and forth and you just have to keep yourself mentally strong,” Barton said.
Barton’s shooting percentages have taken a nose dive. Blazers coach Terry Stotts is never one to judge performance on shooting percentage alone but Barton’s kept his head up during the struggles.
“He’s still a young player and he’s not getting consistent time and I know that’s difficult for anybody much less a young player,” Stotts said. “He wants to do well. But he is in the rotation, we need his minutes, we need him to be productive while he’s in there. He’s kept a good attitude.”
Stotts and Barton both think that the percentages and offensive production, 20 percent from the three-point line and 30 percent from the field, should even out.
“He’s done good things, he’s done some things he needs to improve on which is more or less to be expected,” Stotts said.
“It’s about being confident in myself and telling myself hey, ‘just go out there and play.’ Don’t worry about getting subbed out and not playing and things like that,” Barton said.