Meyers Leonard isn’t happy with the Portland Trail Blazers’ defense. Nor should he be. Only the Sacramento Kings allow more points per 100 possessions.
Against the Brooklyn Nets, however, Leonard was apparently so frustrated, he asked Damian Lillard to call out certain guys for their lackluster play on that end, according to ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe:
At halftime in Brooklyn on Sunday, after the Blazers’ league-worst defense coughed up another 64 points to the lowly Nets, Meyers Leonard approached Damian Lillard with a plea: “Maybe it’s time for you to talk one-on-one with some guys about their defense,” Leonard told Portland’s franchise player. “Everyone respects what you say.”
Lillard considered it, but decided to stay quiet. “The defensive issues — I’m a part of it,” Lillard told ESPN.com the next day. (Leonard would admit he is, too.) “I didn’t want to go telling people, ‘You need to do this or that.’ Enough talking has been done.”
Lillard eventually confronted Evan Turner, Portland’s struggling free agent splurge, after Turner — caught on a switch — let Brook Lopez dribble from the 3-point arc all the way to the rim. “That can’t happen,” Lillard told Turner. Beyond that scolding, Lillard shut his mouth and played harder.
The “Damian Lillard? Call out others? For a lack of defense?” jokes write themselves. But they’re worthless here.
This anecdote is more telltale of how much influence Lillard holds in the Blazers’ locker room. Defense clearly isn’t the strongest aspect of his game. Some would call it a patented weakness. Others believe it’s at times detrimental. And yet he can still be the one to, in theory, speak with players about their defensive performances. That says a lot about the state of the Blazers’ locker room, and how united they seem around Lillard.
It helps that Lillard has been working his butt off on the less glamorous side this season. But, after this story, you get the feeling that he can talk to the Blazers about anything, and they would at the very least take what he says to heart.