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Gary Payton challenges Damian Lillard to step up his defensive game

Jun 14, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Image (1) gpayton-thumb-250x375-13103.jpg for post 2389

Damian Lillard is dynamic. Damian Lillard is clutch. Damian Lillard is one of the fast rising stars of the NBA.

Damian Lillard is not a good defender. Actually, that may be too kind.

If the Portland Trail Blazers are going to take a step forward next season from 54 wins and the second round of the playoffs, it’s going to be because their pedestrian defense becomes better.

That has to start with Lillard, according to Hall of Famer and former shut down defender Gary Payton, speaking with Chris Haynes of

“He can be like Patrick Beverley [of the Houston Rockets] if he wants to, but that’s a mindset,” Payton told Thursday night at American AirlinesArena. “I think Damian has to be willing and ready to play that type of way. Right now, he’s scoring so easily and he’s so good at the offensive end, he doesn’t have to think about defense. He doesn’t have to think about it because he knows he can outscore somebody.

“He can have 35 [points] when he wants to and that’s where the game is going right now. But we have to get that out his mindset. If he wants to be a two-way guard and have his name in a legacy for being that way, he has to step it up on the defensive end.”

Payton says he and Lillard — both Oakland natives — talked about working out together and focusing on defense last summer, but their schedules never meshed.

However a workout is not the answer, according to The Glove. Defense at the NBA level is about effort and desire more than anything else, he said.

“It’s all about your mentality. You can’t teach nobody nothing about good defense,” Payton says. “All you can do is if you have good hands, good feet and you get the mindset that you’re going to sit down and lock somebody up. You have to want to learn how to do it and watch yourself do it. That’s when you become good. I can’t go out there and say, ‘Okay, move your feet, do this, move this, move your hands right there.’ No, you have to have instincts with the game. It’s a mentality. Defense just isn’t a part of our game nowadays.”

It’s needs to be for Lillard if Portland is going to take the next step and try to challenge the elite teams in a deep Western Conference.

  1. sportsfan18 - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    “Defense just isn’t a part of our game nowadays.”

    Gary Payton


    How right you are… There are some players who are very good at playing defense of course, but overall defense has fallen way off.

    Sadly, it’s possible to be called and considered a “superstar” now without even being league average at HALF of the game…

    There are many components to defense and many players don’t care for any of them. Like Gary Payton said, it is a mindset and plenty don’t have that mindset.

    Beyond the mindset is knowing your teams defensive strategy, knowing the tendencies of the man you’re guarding from film study and working coaches so you shade and force him the way he doesn’t want to go. Knowing where YOUR help will come from and where your teammates will be on defense.

    Playing good help defense, rotating etc…

    All of those things are different than playing defense with your feet like one is supposed to instead of with their hands an just waving at the ball. Fighting through screens is a mindset.

    Not “losing” your man because you’re head is NOT in the game is a mindset on defense… Guys are bored because they don’t have the ball and aren’t trying to score themselves and so their minds drift and they lose track of the man they are supposed to be attempting to guard…

    Isn’t STOPPING someone from scoring two points the SAME as scoring two points yourself?

    If you keep trading baskets with a team, you HAVE to score to keep up. Now, if you STOP them from scoring… novel I know…

    • duhwighthoward - Jun 14, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      Wow, a post from sportsfan81 without mentioning PER!

    • mcmystery76 - Jun 14, 2014 at 5:02 PM

      You’re a fool if you don’t think that the NBA’s hand-checking rule changes aren’t the primary reason for the drop in perimeter defense. Guys like MJ (and The Glove) got away with murder out there, and the rules were changed because every game was 60-60, and the TV ratings (with TV contracts being the biggest breadwinner for any major pro sports league) as well as ticket revenues were going in the toilet. So you tell me, would you rather have a league with lackluster perimeter d (and I’d like to see you try and stay in front of literally anyone in the NBA, btw), or no league at all because it’s boring to watch to the casual sports fan and therefore financially unsustainable?

      • sportsfan18 - Jun 14, 2014 at 6:31 PM


        appropriate name… reality of the NBA is a mystery to you…

        All DURING the time that players could get away with murder out there (per what you said), when all the games were 60 to 60 you said…

        Well from the 1976/77 season ALL the way through the 1992/93 season, the average points per game for a team in the league was ABOVE 105 points a game.

        BEFORE MJ began playing it was rough in the league, getting away with murder etc…

        Oh, MJ BEGAN playing in the 1984/85 NBA season.

        So, for the first 9 of MJ’s 13 seasons, when he could get away with murder out there, and others too, the average scoring per team in the NBA was OVER 105 points per game.

        I know you really didn’t think it was 60 to 60 but just by you saying that shows that you don’t know how wide open the NBA was and points were put up.

        Now, beginning in 1993/94 it began to go down. The Detroit Pistons and their “Bad Boys” began the trend to slow the game down and really punish players driving the lane etc…

        It’s only since the 1995/96 season that the average points scored per team dipped below 100 and it stayed there until the 2009/10 season.

        So, the MORE RECENT history of the league 93/94 to 07/08 was the lower scoring, NOT the olden days with MJ and others getting away with murder on the floor.

        Even with getting away with murder, hand checking etc… they still SCORED a lot, MORE than they do now without hand checking and hard fouls.

        There were NO flagrant fouls then.

        So, olden days, played very rough AND scored a lot.

        Today, can’t foul hard, can’t hand check and CAN’T score.

        there, now it isn’t a mystery to you anymore

  2. jaerba - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    A lot of teams didn’t have that mindset in the 90’s and certainly not in the 80’s either.

    Let’s not start with the “the game used to be so much better!” bullcrap. Great defenders sometimes got lackadaisical and lazy in the 90’s too, just like Lebron does today. And for every Gary Payton-caliber defender back then, there were far more Kevin Johnson-type scorers who didn’t bother on defense.

    Both NBA defenses and offenses are more sophisticated than they’ve ever been, and you can go to any era of basketball and find teams/players who care about proper execution and teams/players who don’t care about proper execution.

    “Sadly, it’s possible to be called and considered a “superstar” now without even being league average at HALF of the game”

    In the 90’s you would’ve said this about Barkley.
    In the 80’s, you would’ve said this about Magic.
    In the 70’s you would’ve said this about Gervin or Maravich.

    The “game used to be so much better” argument is so tired and worn out. We know better today and the reality is that no, it wasn’t.

    • mcmystery76 - Jun 14, 2014 at 5:04 PM

      A bunch of crotchety old white guys hit dislike

  3. spillz121 - Jun 14, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    Amen, jaerba

    Couldn’t have said it better myself

  4. campcouch - Jun 14, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    Looking at team stats,from 95 to around 04 the league scoring averages dropped below 100ppg with a few teams around the century mark. Prior to 95,everybody scored. Around 05 there was an increase and then a mixture with mostly Western Conference teams averaging 100+ per game. Was this due to effort or just the way the refs called the game? I don’t think the D was any better then, there weren’t so many touch calls. The NBA wanted to open it up a bit more so the refs and their whistles started becoming more involved and offenses flourished in the new freedom.

  5. vadergriffin - Jun 14, 2014 at 3:57 PM

    Ricky Ruuuuuuubio!

    • duhwighthoward - Jun 14, 2014 at 11:37 PM

      HELL YEAH!

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