Don’t do it, Dame.
NBA All-Star Weekend is right around the corner, and according to CSNNW’s Chris Haynes, the Portland Trail Blazers‘ Damian Lillard has been invited to participate in one of the event’s top spectacles: The Slam Dunk Contest.
Although it’s an honor to be invited, Lillard would be smart to pass on the opportunity. Very little good can come out of his participation, and it comes down to two major categories.
The All-Star break, despite its usual showcase of glitz and glamour, is just that: a break from the action. Taking time off is crucial for anybody’s workplace production, and NBA players are no exception.
When it comes to Lillard, he needs the rest more than just about anyone he’ll share the court with in New Orleans. He’s playing heavy minutes due to a lack of production off the Portland bench, and he needs his energy for the second-half stretch.
On the year, Lillard is averaging 36 minutes per game. That’s 20th in the Association, and it’s following a rookie season that saw him record the most minutes of anyone across the league.
For athletes like Lillard, one dunk contest isn’t going to make or break the year. That said, getting as much rest as possible makes sense, as we saw the Blazers collapse during the final 13 games of the 2012-13 campaign.
When it comes to the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, it’s a lose-lose situation. Either you’re asked to participate and you say no, or you stick your neck out on the line only to disappoint those who watch with a critical eye.
— RantSports (@RantSports) January 30, 2014
For the past decade, the dunk contest has been a display of underwhelming throw-downs. It’s become a popularity contest through the addition of fan voting, and without the popular vote, participants have resorted to gimmicks and props instead of top-tier finishes.
The sad part is that Lillard can actually dunk. We’ve seen it on multiple occasions, and chances are, we’ll continue to see it throughout his career.
The problem is that he doesn’t have the flair that is expected from those in the competition. Players such as Vince Carter and Jason Richardson — not to mention Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins before them — made that a near-requirement, and while Lillard certainly has the attitude to draw attention his way, he doesn’t glide through the air the same way those figures of the past did so elegantly.
Everything said, there’s one way Lillard should opt in to the weekend’s contest: If he wants to shoot the moon.
Lillard is already set to leave his finger prints all over New Orleans. The sophomore standout is participating in the Rising Stars Challenge for the second time, the All-Star Game for the first time and according to Haynes, he’ll be defending his title as Skills Challenge champion.
That’s three events already, and if he’d gotten his wish from early in the year, he’d be in the three-point contest as well.
This goes against everything that was said regarding tired legs, but if Lillard was participating in the long-ball competition, he might as well soak in as much of the weekend as possible. He’d already be participating in every other major event, so why not show off his dunks in the Saturday-night headliner?
Since Lillard’s not shooting the moon, the guard would be smart to say no this time around. The weekend’s biggest attraction is also its most criticized, and if Lillard takes that time to be a spectator, he’ll realize that the hype simply isn’t worth the result.