Six-time All-NBA guard Damian Lillard got off to a slow start to the 2021-22 season. At the end of November, the veteran point guard was averaging a disappointing 21.5 PPG on 39.7% shooting and 30.2% from beyond the arc. The efficiency numbers mark the worst of Lillard’s career thus far and play a crucial role in the Trail Blazers’ disappointing start to their new campaign.
It has not been all doom and gloom for Lillard this season, however. From November 12th to November 23rd, Damian Lillard averaged 26 PPG on 46.1% shooting and 44.4% from three-point range. In addition, Lillard shot a perfect 29-29 from the free-throw line and led Portland to a 5-0 record during this stint, winning him Western Conference Player of the Week.
Despite these flashes of brilliance, it has not been a consistent occurrence throughout the season. Trail Blazers fans may recall similar struggles at the beginning of last season, when Lillard’s numbers dropped unusually low. Lillard went on a historic stretch shortly after, vaulting himself into #2 of the MVP race at one point. A persistent abdominal issue has troubled Lillard since the conclusion of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics which could’ve also played a critical role in his struggles. The six-time All-Star underwent a cortisone injection procedure at the beginning of December to combat this issue, forcing him out of action for ten days.
In December, Damian Lillard is averaging 29.8 PPG, 7.0 APG, and 5.5 RPG. These numbers are much more characteristic of Lillard’s abilities on the court. Moreover, his shooting accuracy is slowly improving, which is a promising sign for the future. Furthermore, Lillard looks much more confident with his shot and explosiveness. Recently, coach Chauncey Billups has been utilizing Lillard more off-ball to help relieve some of his offensive duties. This has worked well, with Norman Powell, Anfernee Simons, and Nassir Little all averaging career highs in points, assists, and rebounds.
The Blazers currently sit 11th in the Western Conference (13-18) and have significant work ahead of them to meet expectations this season. With a grueling schedule ahead of them (@NOP, vs. BKN, vs. DAL, vs. UTAH, @LAL, vs. ATL, vs. MIA, vs. CLE), that task becomes even more problematic.
Portland has been injury-plagued all season long, and CJ McCollum recently suffered a collapsed lung, forcing him out without a timetable to return. It will require a miracle for The Portland Trail Blazers to emerge in good standing following this next stretch of games with the adversities they are facing. Fortunately for Portland, they have a miracle worker who seems to be finding his feet. He wears the letter “O” on his back, and his name is Damian Lillard.