Damian Lillard is universally recognized as one of the NBA’s elite-most talents—a top-25 to top-30 player in most seasons, and a borderline top-15 to top-20 player this season.
So why is it he only has two All-Star appearances to his name, and none since 2015? Well, mostly, the backcourt ballot is incredibly stuffed in the Western Conference, which has left him to be the odd man out for each of the past few years. And while talking with ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes, he made it crystal clear that he’s tired of being the sacrificial lamb:
“I’ve gotten frustrated just for the fact that it feels like I always got to be the fall guy and every other guy has been deserving,” Lillard tells ESPN. “In the past, the thing has been, ‘All right, my team has been 10 games under .500 or not in the playoffs,’ but every year we’ve found a way to be in the postseason, and this year I think we’re in much better position than we have been in the past two seasons that I didn’t make it. I think I’ve gotten over the emotional part of it the last few times that I didn’t make it. Now I’m kind of like expecting it to go that way, but I feel like I should be there.”
Lillard also, for the record, isn’t thrilled that Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball ended up securing more All-Star votes from the fans than him:
“He plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most, if not the most, storied franchises in that big of a market,” Lillard explained to ESPN. “So, so many people are going to support him throughout that, and also with his dad and all the attention that’s been surrounding him since college. There’s a lot of people that follow him, so, that’s not really a surprise to me. The market size and what’s going on with his family, it’s no surprise really to me.”
Look no further than Lillard for proof that the NBA’s marquee names—at least certain ones—care about All-Star appearances. And while it has been tough to purge as player from the All-Star ranks in favor of Lillard these past two years, he’ll have a legitimate gripe if he doesn’t get in this time.
The league already announced the starters on Thursday, and the Portland Trail Blazers point guard, not surprisingly, wasn’t among them. But the reserves will be announced on Tuesday (draft results follow next Thursday), and Lillard is currently averaging 25.0 points and 6.5 assists with the second-highest true shooting percentage of his career. Given the injuries suffered to Mike Conley, Kawhi Leonard, Rudy Gobert and even Chris Paul, this year is his best in recent memory to get in either as a guard or one of the coaches’ wild-card picks.